n Journal of African Elections - Partisan realignment in Cape Town 1994-2004




The Western Cape is the one part of South Africa that has experienced strong competition in democratic elections and a dramatic shift in power between political parties. Between 1994 and 2004 the initially dominant National Party lost almost all of its support, while support for the African National Congress rose steadily. Because of both the heterogeneity and supposed fluidity of the 'coloured vote' neither voting patterns nor shifts in the Western Cape fit neatly within a simple racial explanation of voting behaviour. Firstly, coloured voters have voted for opposing parties. Secondly, it has been asserted widely, there was a swing among coloured voters from the National Party to the African National Congress. This paper explores ward-level election results and survey data on Cape Town to show that coloured voters continue to be heterogeneous in their voting behaviour but that there is little evidence that former National Party supporters became ANC supporters between 1994 and 2004. The major cause of shifting partisan power in Cape Town is not voter realignment but rather demographic change, with differential turnout playing a role in specific elections. It is the overall electorate, rather than the individual voter, that has changed.


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