n Journal of African Elections - Under strain : the racial / ethnic interpretation of South Africa's 2004 election

Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



An analytical framework that emphasises race and ethnicity has come to dominate post-apartheid electoral studies. In this view, race and ethnicity are regarded as primary analytical variables in explaining voting behaviour and are taken to be crucial in influencing the strategy and tactics of political parties. In this framework, South African society is considered to be characterised by such serious and insoluble racial and ethnic divisions that the prospects for democratic consolidation are imperilled. <br>Most explanations of voting behaviour and party politics in the 1994 and 1999 elections were based on this interpretation. The argument advanced in this paper is that such focus is misguided and flawed. It shows, through a reading and interpretation of the 2004 election, that this approach is limited. For there is emerging empirical evidence - revealed by the 2004 election - that race and ethnicity do not play a central role in explaining voting behaviour and the performance of parties. Thus the arguments embodied within the racial/ethnic view threaten democratic consolidation.

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