n Journal of African Elections - The Economic Freedom Fighters - South Africa's turn towards populism?

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has made an impact on South African politics since it was launched in 2013. After the general election in 2014 the EFF became the third-largest party in the National Assembly and the official opposition in North West and Limpopo provinces. Some commentators have raised concerns that the EFF's success represents a turn towards a dangerous populism in South African politics. This article seeks to analyse the EFF as a populist party by arguing that it fits into a global pattern of populism in electoral politics. It uses the category of 'political style', as developed by Benjamin Moffitt and Simon Tormey (2014), to discuss the brand of populism espoused by the EFF. The article argues that the performative elements of the EFF's politics - its uniform and rhetoric, as well as its engagement with national and provincial legislatures - have had the effect of sparking a debate about the relevance of the country's political institutions 20 years into democratic rule.

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