If voters go out to vote they will run the risk of being “rewarded” with frustration about politicians’ hollow words, reminders that “Mandela’s democracy” is long buried, and rude awakenings to the fact that the governing party is no longer the trusted parent who brings the food home at night. These were common articulations of South Africa’s past world of democracy experiences. Times have changed.

The negative experiences of voting raise questions about both the likely turnout rates for the elections of 1 November, and the legitimacy of the elections should there be very low participation. A lessened belief in the virtues of voting may also contribute to post-election political and governance instability – even more so if in the context of coalition local governments.

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