Would the ANC be good losers?

David Bullard on what would happen if the ruling party came second in a national election

Towards the end of this year Americans will go to the polls to elect a new President. They may decide to give the current president, Barack Obama, another term on the basis that the mess he inherited from George Dubya needs more than four years to sort out. Or they may decide they have had enough of Obama's smooth talking ways and an economy that refuses to be kick started and elect the rather creepy Mitt Romney to the position of President.

Not that Mr Romney, despite his election promises, will be able to do much more than Mr Obama about the ever escalating debt (which currently stands at $16 trillion) or the on-going hostilities that sap so much of the US taxpayer's money.

But whatever the outcome, the candidate with the most expensively earned votes in the world will become President of the USA and the loser will accept the fact.  Like it or not, that's what democracy is all about and even if it's a close call the party that comes second has to wait another four years for a crack at the presidency.

So what do you think would happen if the ANC ever came second in a general election? Would they willingly relinquish power? This is a great question to introduce at a northern suburbs dinner party because most people haven't really thought too much about it. It's probably a good idea to get the main course out of the way first though because the likely response isn't going to be great for your digestion.

Fortunately the situation is unlikely to arise in the foreseeable future because there is no political party that can come close to toppling the ANC. Perversely, that is one of the benefits of living in a one party state.

But just suppose a new breakaway party was formed by those ANC members thoroughly disgusted by the way the party of liberation had betrayed them. And suppose that party fought an election and won more votes than the ANC from equally disillusioned former party loyalists? What then? Do you honestly believe the likes of Comrade Gwede, Blade et al would shuffle off into the sunset for the next five years and form an opposition shadow cabinet?  Fat chance.

I may be doing them a huge disservice but I believe that our current crop of politicians would hang on to power for dear life. They would demand a recount, declare the election null and void, burst into tears, sulk, threaten to bring the country to its knees....anything rather than give up all those luxury cars, dodgy tenderpreneur deals, first class travel and taxpayer sponsored fact-finding trips overseas.

The problem with our version of democracy is that the ruling party have made life so comfortable for themselves that it has become unthinkable for them to give it all up for a spell in the political wilderness. Which, of course, means that the chances of a breakaway party forming are remote because why deliberately distance yourself from the swill trough?

Only someone with enormous personal integrity and vision would do something as dumb as that and we seem to be woefully short of such people in this country. Cometh the hour, cometh the man (or woman)  - but not apparently in this country.

This rather gloomy (albeit realistic) prognosis means that the ANC are likely to remain the ruling party for years to come. So any hope of real change and prosperity for the country can only happen if the party chooses to move in a different direction. I suspect that most of us would happily accept that compromise version of democracy if we seriously believed that it were possible.

That would mean having faith that our cabinet ministers put the interests of the country ahead of self interest. On the pre Mangaung showing that's rather hard to believe. For months now the country has effectively been without any meaningful form of government as politicians jockey for position ahead of this rather bizarre charade in which around 5000 or so of the party faithful decide who will run the country for the next five years. You can't jockey for power and deliver text books to schools can you?

So I'm afraid it looks like more of the same, irrespective of who gets the vote in December. There will be the usual waffle about uplifting the poor until the election is out of the way and then we will have to endure another five years of non delivery, corruption, lack of economic initiative, collapse of infrastructure and government obfuscation on a whole range of issues. But look on the bright side....maybe that's better than the bloodbath that would inevitably follow an ANC election defeat.

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