Balancing interests in the ANC party list

From Business Day (Johannesburg), via All Africa, comes a report on the African National Congress leadership in the province of KwaZulu-Natal beginning to prepare its (closed) party lists for the 20009 general election:

At the best of times, compiling candidate lists for seats in Parliament poses major challenges as the party tries to derive maximum benefit in the deployment of its cadres. It is a complicated process, requiring a deep understanding of the nature of an organisation that draws support from such diverse interest groups.

The lists have to mirror, as much as possible, the core constituency of the ANC while at the same time ensuring that particular skills and talents are retained. As the party grows in rural areas, eroding steadily what was once the Inkatha Freedom Party’s (IFP’s) key support base, it has to reflect that in the line-up for the election.

The party also benefited spectacularly from the now out-of-favour floor-crossing legislation. Common decency would require that those who brought with them seats from other parties should at least be placed favourably on the list to ensure they go back to Parliament.

Then, of course, there is the drive to attain a 50% representation of women, which should mean more than a handful of men will be looking for other jobs next year.

Traditionally, the list process has to ensure that there is decent representation of the interests of the alliance partners — a particularly important component if we remember the support given to Jacob Zuma ahead of the last elective ANC conference.

It is indeed also time to reward those who worked tirelessly for Zuma’s win. Payback time, if ever there was one. The question is whether the ANC will be prepared to sacrifice the experience and talent of the comrades who were anti-Zuma. […]

The article also notes that the ANC’s task is especially critical in KwaZulu-Natal, as in that province the IFP and the ANC are likely to be in “a fierce contest.” In other words, to the extent that voters pay attention to the candidates on (or at least near the top of) the lists, candidate quality may sway some votes between the parties. Moreover, the uncertainty about how many seats the party will win complicates its fine intraparty balancing act, as some candidates chosen to represent one or another group or to bring one or another skill to parliament may fail to win seats, if the party performs more poorly than expected.

And then, of course, there is the wild card of the trial of Zuma, if it goes ahead.

A second article from the same source notes the changing nature of the relationship between the party and the government and the impact this is having on the party’s internal processes.

Crucially, power has seeped away from the executive as the ANC grapples with the now stark differences between the party in government and Luthuli House. The fluidity continues to express itself in all areas of our public discourse and within our institutions generally. Parliament is no different in that respect. The ANC parliamentary caucus simply reflects the political fluidity of the moment. It is for this reason that MPs suddenly find themselves with the political space for manoeuvre and the ability to question the executive openly.

…For too long now, Parliament has been tired, mostly reactive and seldom proactive in raising debate or questioning the status quo.

…What is clear and probably predictable is that the ANC within Parliament is unable to separate itself from the political turmoil within the party.

As the party list conference and next year’s elections loom, there will inevitably be tensions as party members fight to retain their positions on the party list.

It seems unlikely that the ANC will fall below a majority in parliament any time soon, but is the executive’s hegemony breaking down on the intraparty dimension? Or is this just a transitional phase, brought about by the rather odd situation (for a parliamentary system) of a party leadership change before the end of the term of the current chief executive?

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