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News release

South Africans support elections but doubt their efficacy, express little trust in Electoral Commission

13 Jun 2023 South Africa
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News release
Key findings
  • About two-thirds (65%) of South Africans support elections as the best way to choose their leaders, while three in 10 (30%) say other methods for choosing the country’s leaders should be adopted (Figure 1).
  • Majorities think their elections do not work well to enable voters to remove leaders who don’t do what the people want (64%) and to ensure that members of Parliament reflect voters’ views (61%) (Figure 2).
  • About half (49%) of the population describe their 2019 election as having been largely free and fair: 29% say it was “completely free and fair,” while 20% consider it “free and fair with minor problems.” Fewer than four in 10 (37%) say it was either “free and fair with major problems” (23%) or “not free and fair” (14%) (Figure 3).
  • Most citizens (64%) say they did not fear political intimidation or violence “at all” during the last national election, while 28% report feeling fearful “a little bit” (12%), “somewhat” (11%), or “a lot” (5%) (Figure 4).
  • Fewer than half (47%) express confidence in ballot secrecy, saying it is “not very likely” (17%) or “not at all likely” (30%) that powerful people can find out how they voted. But almost as many (43%) consider it “somewhat likely” (21%) or “very likely” (22%) that their ballots are not secret (Figure 5).
  • The Electoral Commission musters trust among fewer than three in 10 citizens (28%), while a majority (64%) trust it “not at all” (39%) or “just a little” (25%) (Figure 6).

Most South Africans value elections, but majorities do not believe that elections work well to ensure that voters’ views are reflected in Parliament and to enable voters to remove leaders from office who don’t do what the people want, an Afrobarometer survey indicates.

While about half of citizens consider their 2019 elections to have been free and fair, trust in the South African Electoral Commission is weak. A majority say they did not fear political intimidation or violence during the last national election campaign, but views on ballot secrecy are mixed.

As the country looks ahead to the 2024 election, the restoration of citizens’ trust in institutions underpinning constitutional democracy is essential.