The last major IAC project involved monitoring and analytics activities in the Republic of South Africa, where a group of IAC experts conducted its research from October 2018.
Participation in this project is a valuable experience for the organization and all the invited experts. The RSA is of interest to researchers for a number of reasons:
— in view of the complex history of interaction between immigrants, colonizers, and the local population, opposition to the apartheid regime;
— due to the highly developed civil society institutions and the media. Despite the historical context, today South Africa can be compared to many Western countries in terms of freedom of the press, civic engagement, and consciousness levels;
— South African political system is an example of democracy for the whole continent;
— The USSR, and later Russia had сlose links with South Africa for many decades. It supported the anti-apartheid movement in 1960-1990 and launched cooperation through BRICS in 2014. Many research institutions in BRICS countries carry out more and more activities each year aimed at knowledge-sharing and studying social, economic, and political processes.
The pre-project stage included the analysis of the political and socio-economic situation in the country, analysis of the main documents and legal acts (electoral legislation, available campaign strategies of the election participants, etc.), as well as drafting recommendations to the government on such issues as unemployment, migration and other important areas of managing public life. The aim of the research was to provide an objective and unbiased overview of the socio-political situation in the country in the run-up to the National and Provincial elections.
In line with the adopted principles of unbiased position and non-interference, the IAC has cooperated with all stakeholders. We have made contacts with representatives of business, NGOs, academic circles, established channels of communication with members of Parliament and major parties (the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance, the Economic Freedom Fighters) competing for seats in the Parliament and influence in the provinces, as well as with representatives of youth movements.
The field studies were conducted with the participation of experts from partner organization AFRIC (Association for free research and international cooperation), which carries out research in various countries of the African continent. We have collected data on the behavior of population and participants in the elections, both offline and online. The observers analyzed campaigning of the three largest and the newcomer parties, as well as of those that could expect a small number of seats in the Parliament or have local influence in certain provinces.
We have studied the parties’ media strategy, media coverage of party activities, their behavior towards each other, and the dissemination of materials in online media, social networks, and messengers. Throughout the whole period of the South African mission, we performed daily monitoring of the agenda, behavior of party leaders, officials, big businessmen, and influential media persons.
To predict the election results, the IAC analyzed the DA kick-off voter registration campaign and made risk assessment in the course of the ANC election campaign. Also with this purpose, the AFRIC experts conducted a survey of 2,249 respondents across all 9 provinces of South Africa in October 2018 and a national survey of 1,501 respondents in February 2019. More than 120 expert interviews have been carried out and over 50 focus groups have been studied through the entire period.
According to the results of analytical work, 30 days before the elections, the ANC was predicted to get 57% as a realistic result and 62% as an optimistic, but the party failed to convince the doubting voters. The DA, according to preliminary estimates, remained the second, gaining around 20%. According to our data, the DA campaigning upsurge in the last weeks prior to the voting day succeeded in getting support from the previously uncertain voters (11.9%, by February)
The protests and rallies that swept South Africa a month before the elections, though being not large-scale, occupied a considerable share of the news agenda. In our opinion, this, together with the wide range of applied electoral technologies, also contributed to the redistribution of votes; in particular, to the lowered support to the EFF and the ANC. Eventually, the EFF votes “went” to other minor patriotic parties.
A press conference was held following results of the research, the outreach information for the general public and participants in the political process was published in various media (Deutsche Welle, NEWS24, BussinessTech, Polity, All Africa, Briefly, etc).
From the very beginning of the South Africa mission, these data were available to all stakeholders who collaborated with the experts, including the ANC party, which, according to our experts’ forecasts and the election results, lost the greatest number of votes compared with its competitors and became an outsider.
Nevertheless, by making use of the IAC research findings, the ANC was able to raise its position from 46% (October 2018, a drop of the party’s rating after corruption scandals) to 58% (February 2019) and keep this result throughout the campaigning period, against stirring criticisms from the DA, thus remaining in power.
The data of sociological studies, as well as recommendations on public rhetoric and improving communication with the population, were forwarded to the government of the Republic. The forecasts developed by the IAC proved to be far more accurate, as compared with those of competitors – research organizations from other countries that also worked at the South African elections.
Experts of the IAC mission note that the political landscape of South Africa is very diverse, however, the ANC remains the strongest party supported by the majority of citizens. Nevertheless, the demand of the population is changing over time and one historical victory is not enough to stay in power. If the party continues to deny the need of the new approach to domestic and foreign policy, which was felt already during the 2019 elections, a more flexible, quick, and young in all senses opposition can deprive the ANC of the opportunity to continue ruling the country.
We publish the report of the IAC monitoring mission, which presents a detailed examination of the historical context in which the events of the past elections, the socio-political situation of recent years have been developed and the positions of the leading parties, their programs and election campaigns have been formed. The report also features the data of sociological studies conducted among the population and the forecast of the voting results, as well as the conclusions of our experts on the results of the study.