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Thread: Small party politics: why do small parties fail

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    Small party politics: why do small parties fail

    What does South African democracy and American democracy share? Both lean towards a two party system and the only impact smaller parties have is voter drainage however luckily in South Africa there is a shift. The emergence of COPE and the eff has shown the true power of smaller parties in governance as the influence they hold although draining votes they are able to hold bigger parties to account in all manners something the US lacks but why do only a few smaller parties remain as enforcers and why do most fail?

    The failure of small or upstart parties i would argue is based on three survival characteristics
    1. Support base
    2. Party stability
    3. Growth capacity

    The support base is the most obvious characteristic of any party as without some support the party cannot exist. It is because of support that large parties such as the ANC an DA can grow alongside receiving funding and maintain control over governance. If a parties survival is based on support why do small parties fail? The support of small parties relies on a constant flow of members. This is the bloodline of any party the in and outflow of members, the in and outflow of support. The ANC has seen the negative side of this flow recently as the outflow of members and support has surpassed the influx. This is how party politics function through the constant attempt to balance the inflow and outflow support it is maintaining balance that allows a party to survive and for upstart parties it is maintaining support that ensures their survival many parties such as the Cape Party cannot become viable because they cannot balance support and end up losing more support than what they are gaining. For large parties their entrenched support allows them the free reign to balance support over election cycles as they still maintain forms of power but small or upstart parties dont have such a luxury thus they either garner fixed support and balance the outflow with influx such as the eff or their support base crumbles such as the minority front

    What makes the DA and EFF so resilient to criticism and ensuring they dont split? It is their ability to maintain a unified leadership. When people do not have a unified interest or goal they conflict and split with people who agree with them. The ability to contain separatism defines a stable leadership and a stable party. If separatism cannot be contained the party deteriorates and struggles to survive and fail. When the leadership conflicts the party fails and loses its power. Examples of party instability causing the decrease in support and party failure can be seen with the leadership problems within COPE and AGANG leading a decrease in their support. Small parties that have shown success through maintaining their leadership is the EFF and UDM.

    The final characteristic ensuring the future of small parties acting as ways in keeping larger parties to account through survival is the management of party growth. A party with sustainable voter support and growth even a small party with a sustainable voter and membership growth is able to survive and maintain some form of representation allowing the party to survive. The parties with consistency and growth is eff and udm.

    All these characteristics reveal that although smaller parties struggle to get into government or leader positions they are instrumental to ensure bigger parties do not overextend their mandates and bully governance and legislature aspects of politics. We must thus ensure these parties grow to ensure a multi party system

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    When it comes to small party politics, what is your definition of failure?

    Sometimes the only objective is for one person to hold a seat at parliament. As long as they achieve that, their mission is accomplished.
    Is that "failure" in your eyes?

    Many of these small parties don't want to rule the world.
    Or South Africa.
    Or even be "king makers".
    All they want is to represent their constituency and/or get a narrow set of issues on the agenda.
    If they succeed in drawing attention to their pet issues, is that failure in your eyes?

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    Good reply
    A failed party is one that struggles to maintain its agenda as you mentioned not every party wants to rule sa but if they set up an agenda but fails to at least move towards it it is a failed party. One example is the cape party that wants to get a seat in cape town metro but has never been able to thus the agenda of a free cape cannot be filled

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    I hope it’s acceptable for a new member to reopen an old thread, but the subject interests me.

    Here in the U.K. our electoral system militates strongly against new parties and small parties. There are occasional breakthroughs such as the Labour Party in the early part of the 20th century, supplanting the Liberals, and the Scottish National Party essentially supplanting Labour in Scotland this century. However these are very unusual developments and coalitions at national level are freak events.

    The system of simple plurality or ‘first past the post’ has meant that we have not had an overtly Fascist party elected to the Westminster Parliament and have rarely had far left parties (the last two Communist MPs lost their seats in 1950). In the present era, we have only one Green MP in contrast to most Northern European countries where the Greens are a major third force in politics.

    One of the many problems associated with first past the post is an unintended consequence that looms increasingly large. The two main parties are ceasing to be ‘broad churches’ but being hijacked by extremist activists with strong ideological agendas. We have seen this with the far left taking control of the Labour Party on a number of occasions since the 1970s. We are also seeing it play out dramatically with the Conservative Party, which has ceased to be conservative in a recognisable sense but become a populist party. Many more traditional or moderate Conservatives have been expelled from the party or ‘deselected’ as MPs for questioning or challenging the populist-nationalist party line.

    On another note, I had not previously heard of the Cape Party and I must look it up.

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    I have looked up the Cape Party and notice that on its Home Page it says that it ‘stands for greater economic and political independence for the Cape’. This suggests devolution or regional autonomy. However the policy platform appears to be an unabashed blueprint for an independent country. It’s hard to tell whether this means the party is divided on whether to go hell-for-leather for full independence, or whether it has a strategy of seeking regional autonomy as a prelude to independence.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas Lees View Post
    One of the many problems associated with first past the post is an unintended consequence that looms increasingly large. The two main parties are ceasing to be ‘broad churches’ but being hijacked by extremist activists with strong ideological agendas. We have seen this with the far left taking control of the Labour Party on a number of occasions since the 1970s. We are also seeing it play out dramatically with the Conservative Party, which has ceased to be conservative in a recognisable sense but become a populist party. Many more traditional or moderate Conservatives have been expelled from the party or ‘deselected’ as MPs for questioning or challenging the populist-nationalist party line.
    I don't think this is a "first-past-the-post" problem and more of a "big party" problem. We see something very similar here - particularly in respect of the ANC.

    Big parties become Brands, and have brand power. This makes them targets for narrow interest factions to get their agenda into the national program to an extent that they could not have done by targeting the electorate directly with their issue. The registered party base is a much smaller number to dominate. Party leadership dynamics are less democratic. And one can add one's minority interest issue onto the underlying support of a broader platform,

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    I don't think this is a "first-past-the-post" problem and more of a "big party" problem. We see something very similar here - particularly in respect of the ANC.

    Big parties become Brands, and have brand power. This makes them targets for narrow interest factions to get their agenda into the national program to an extent that they could not have done by targeting the electorate directly with their issue. The registered party base is a much smaller number to dominate. Party leadership dynamics are less democratic. And one can add one's minority interest issue onto the underlying support of a broader platform,

    I think that over here it is a first past the post problem in that many other Northern European democracies have, for example, separate parties of the centre-left (social democrats) and left or far left (socialist, post-communist, etc.). Also far right parties often have parliamentary representation alongside mainstream conservatives. While I don’t like the idea of far right parties gaining parliamentary seats, it does at least give them a safety valve and the uselessness of their representatives is often exposed, as is their inherent nastiness. This is preferable to the far right or populist right capture of the Conservative Party (as has happened now IMHO) or the far left takeover of Labour (which has happened in the recent past). A more proportional system also allows for regional (but not separatist) parties to gain a voice. PR isn’t a magic bullet or cure-all and there are some forms that work better than others. The Single Transferable Vote works well in Ireland and would suit the U.K. because it preserves the constituency link. It is now used in Scottish local government elections.

    I agree with you very much about parties having brand power and I can see that there are difficulties for SA when there is an asymmetrical system: a very large ruling party and a much smaller opposition.

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    Going back to SA political parties, I have heard a lot of disappointment expressed with the DA. The Cape Party doesn’t seem to have much of a base and is regional/separatist (?) anyway. The EFF appears to be very far to the left and have an attitude to property rights a bit like ZANU (PF) [please correct me if I’m wrong about any of this!!!]. Is there an opposition party that is not extreme or purely opportunistic that has the potential to grow and become a serious political player?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas Lees View Post
    Is there an opposition party that is not extreme or purely opportunistic that has the potential to grow and become a serious political player?
    There are parties that are not extreme and/or purely opportunistic. Unfortunately their ability to become a serious political player is undone by the dominance and "universal church" mythology of the ANC brand. A splinter group of the ANC called COPE theoretically should have mustered some reasonable support given the profile of leadership positions they had held in the ANC when they broke away. It became evident pretty quickly that the vast majority of ANC voters were not supporting individual leaders and what they stood for, but rather voting pretty blindly for the party.

    For clarity, there are some who are discerning, but nowhere near enough in these parts to make an impact.
    And then there's the challenge that you have to be pretty extreme to stand out from the crowd as an individual anyway. Moderates are dime a dozen and even the ones who make absolute sense don't attract as much limelight as the controversial characters.

    Brand loyalty is huge in these parts.
    (I know this is true in many parts of the UK too).

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    Branding and advertising, even in business, is very important. One of the problems facing small parties is funding. It costs plenty to establish a brand and then getting representatives on the ground to carry it further. You need people on the ground to talk to people and to be involved in their communities.

    A party cannot just be built around one popular figure (although it has happened in the past) There is a mechanism and administration to be put in place, which can be very costly. Even the ANC sometimes battle to pay their staff, despite all the money that they have syphoned from the country.

    I am praying that this act of terrorism and crime against our people will lead to a purge of the unsavoury elements in parliament in the short term. For the longer term I pray for municipalities to be de-politicised and run by elected officials from the communities that they serve. I pray for business leaders to get involved in local government to run clean administrations and to advance business interests and opportunities so that more jobs can be created and more people be uplifted.

    I pray for the abolishment of tribal rule and property rights for rural people so that they can get ownership of their homes and properties. This will enable them to raise funds to start businesses, to educate their children and to better their lives overall.

    Well, I am a dreamer after all.
    Excellence is not a skill; its an attitude...

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