Leon to step down, saying one person as leader for too long unhealthy

Ido Lekota

Ido Lekota

After years of being the face and voice of the party, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Tony Leon yesterday said he would not be standing for elections.

"I wish to announce today that I will not seek, nor will I accept, nomination for the leadership of the Democratic Alliance when the federal party convenes in May 2007," Leon said.

Leon said having one person as a leader for too long was not good for the health of the party.

"There is a danger over time that no matter how effective its public representatives, the identity and branding of the party will be almost completely absorbed into the identity and personality of its leader. In other words, it is time for the party to move on, and for me to move on as well," he said.

Leon said he would remain an ordinary MP until his term expired in 2009.

Leon said his departure gave the party an opportunity to elect a new leadership, adding that he had no intention of influencing who his successor should be.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi said Leon's departure afforded the party the opportunity to map out its future as a party that could serve as an effective alternative to the ANC.

Matshiqi said though the DA, under Leon, had made inroads into the black electorate, "it has failed to achieve its set target".

In 1999 the DA took advantage of the demise of the New National Party, and some black supporters, said Matshiqi.

However, he said, most black voters were unhappy with DA's election campaign in 2004.

Matshiqi said most black voters found Leon's kind of opposition politics unacceptable.

"Given our race-driven society, some black voters find Leon's in-your-face kind of politics racially offensive," he said.

He said given the racial history of the country, voters disaffected with the ANC would in the "next two or three" elections stay at home rather than flock to the DA.

The challenge for the DA, said Matshiqi, would be to lure those voters to the polls.

He said the DA's future also depended on the continuing growth of the black middle- class.

A younger large black middle- class could become fertile soil for the DA because it has become less race conscious.

l Leon was elected leader of the of the then Democratic Party in 1994.

l The DP merged with the New National Party (NNP) in 2000 to form the DA.

l The DA then formed the government of the Western Cape.

l The brittle alliance lasted until 2001 when the NNP left to form a new alliance with the ANC.

l During the 2004 general election, the DA and ANC increased their vote share, at the expense of other opposition parties.

The Democratic Alliance won 12,4 percent of the votes and 50 seats, and remains the second largest political party in the country. Source:Wikipedia