sa firmly on the road TO COALITION POLITICS

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

Long before the split or breakaway in the ANC, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille was singing about a possible political realignment on the South African political landscape.

She reiterated this on various platforms and in her on-line newsletter, SA Today.

It looks as if Zille might be vindicated and that her vision could be realised sooner rather than later.

The prospect of such a realignment became especially clear with the emergence of the soon-to-be launched political party led by former senior ANC members Mosiuoa Lekota, Mluleki George and Mbhazima Shilowa.

Our country is headed for the stage of coalition politics that will be preceded by a political gambit that will help strengthen rather than weaken our democracy.

Floor-crossing might have gone but this ghostly phenomenon, albeit in a new guise, is here to haunt us until our political landscape reaches equilibrium.

Cast your imagination beyond the period of the 2009 general election. It will be just after a bruising election campaign and a contentious poll in which the stakes will have been very high for all political players in the country.

Whoever between the ANC and its splinter will have won to form the next government will know very well that it cannot be business as usual in government.

The time is close when a ruling party will not be able to do as it pleases. Opposition parties will be important and the new government will be forced to listen when they speak and will have to consult them before making any crucial decisions.

Such a situation will spread further to the internal democracy of the political parties themselves.

Had we had a viable opposition the government would have listened when the DA, United Democratic Movement and Independent Democrats opposed the disbanding of the Scorpions and called for a judicial investigation into the arms deal. The ANC would have appreciated the divisiveness within their own members and the country's citizens, of recalling former president Thabo Mbeki.

The DA is in a better position to take an interest in a political realignment, having been the official opposition to the ANC and having fought numerous, albeit unsuccessful, battles to force the ruling party to mend its ways.

The DA is most likely to be a crucial party as a kingmaker or holder of the balance of power in our post-2009 government.

The DA, along with Bantu Holomisa's UDM and the ID of Patricia de Lille, has been the trio making the right noises to oppose the ANC. With the emergence of Lekota as another voice of dissent, the ANC is facing a huge challenge and might even be ousted by an opposition coalition.

This is possible if the ANC's current parliamentary majority is reduced to below 50 percent. As things stand now, even a combination opposition onslaught against the ruling group cannot crack the ANC.

But all is not lost, for there is the possibility of reversing this with the new party. There are clear signs that if Lekota's party fails to get an outright majority in 2009, it could be the official opposition.

A coalition between his party and the other opposition groups would increase their parliamentary count. In that case they will give the ANC a run for its money and possibly even unseat the Jacob Zuma administration.

That would be democracy in action.

Another scenario is the possibility of strange coalitions or coalitions of convenience - where the right-wing and left-wing parties cooperate to outdo their immediate opponents. A situation where the ANC would lobby the DA or the Freedom Front Plus or even the IFP to form a front against Lekota is likely. Lekota might do the same to outplay the ANC.

More interesting is a possible tug-of-war between Lekota and Zuma over the DA. The DA's political strength makes it a likely partner that others would like to dance with.

With reports that the new party might follow a social democratic line instead of the outdated "revolution" approach, Zille might find a tango with Lekota more irresistible than a foxtrot with Zuma.

De Lille and her ID party are unpredictable as she often tends to wobble between the left and right when it comes to coalition politics.

But Holomisa has made no bones about working closely with the Lekota breakaway group after next year's elections.

This former soldier is an avowed opponent of the new ANC leadership and the UDM has been a major beneficiary of the current ANC's enmity.

The UDM, , like the majority of other opposition parties, would like to go to the elections separately first before entering into a coalition with anybody.

Whoever wins next year's election will have to come to terms with the reality it would not be business as usual to run the new government, but other parties will have to be taken on board.