A prelude to disaster
THE IMPLOSION of the Government headed by former President Thabo Mbeki may have salvaged hopes of a true working democracy in South Africa. That seems to be the message from some major political developments now taking place in Europe.
The African National Congress has effectively operated since SA’s first democratic election in 1994 as an all-powerful ruling coalition. That process had some strong initial pluses for stability. The crucial downside is that it bred increasing anger at the arrogance of power and the insolence of office.
Now look at Austria, for instance. Edward Lucas notes in Britain’s Daily Telegraph: “For decades this country was run by a political cartel of the ‘reds’ (Social Democrats) and ‘blacks’ (Christian Democrats). They alternated in power, dividing up jobs in public service and business between them. The ‘parteibuch’ (party membership card) was crucial for everything.”
Rising resentment at that cosy arrangement led to a surge of support for “outsiders” from both far Right and hard Left. In the end-September elections three out of 10 Austrians voted for neo-Nazi parties.
Then there’s Germany, currently run by a “grand coalition” – essentially of moderates from Right and Left under Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel. But her party has just polled less than 50% of the vote in its most important traditional base, Bavaria. Greens, liberals and various quasi-fascist populists were the key beneficiaries.
But the Social Democrats also have big troubles.