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Experts warn DA could suffer decline in support

Cape Town – With just weeks to go to the launch of its manifesto, the DA is locked in intense discussions to wrap up its policies and attempt to squash internal squabbles ahead of elections.

The party is expected to outline its manifesto at an event at the Rand Stadium in Joburg on February 23.

This past weekend, the party’s top structures sat down for a federal council meeting in Cape Town and party leader Mmusi Maimane is expected to give a briefing on Sunday on its outcomes.

High on the agenda of the meeting was said to be the issue around the DA’s stance on BEE ahead of the manifesto launch, an issue that has been contentious and drawn some criticism from within and outside the party.

Mounting tensions from party leaders and talks about Maimane’s future have also been up for discussion.

Political analyst Daniel Silke said the party’s performance at the polls would most likely be what determines Maimane’s future as leader.

“The short-term priority would be the unity of purpose leading to the election with the medium term being how the party performs in the election and frankly Maimane’s future as the leader of the party is going to be determined by the results of the elections.

“If the party can hold its own and come back into Parliament with a similar amount of votes, he might just manage to retain the position. But if the DA vote is reduced in some form or other, I think Maimane might be in trouble from a leadership perspective.

“But there is not a lot of time to assess Maimane’s role as a leader; the real test will be with the voters and how they see the DA and he might be able to claim victim with Ramaphosa potentially eating into the DA votes or he faces severe criticism from within his own party, with the first potential loss of support for the DA since 1999 and that is going to be the key judgment.”

Party insiders said Maimane’s hold on the party had waned after expectations that he would have the same success in Gauteng as Helen Zille did in the Western Cape fell through.

Analyst Cherrel Africa said despite Zille’s ability to win the province in 2009 and then grow the support base in 2014, a win is no longer a foregone conclusion in the province.

“The DA is not guaranteed an outright majority in the province in the upcoming elections.

“They might achieve it but it is not guaranteed. Recent surveys and by-election results reveal that the DA could face declining support at the polls in May.

“This is due to a number of contributory factors including the management of the drought in the Western Cape and the tumultuous exit of Patricia de Lille.

“Additionally in a dramatically changed political context, challenges such as a lack of congruence in DA leaders’ public statements, the resignation of Gwen Ngwenya as the DA’s policy chief and their campaign approach embodied in the #TheANCIsKillingSA billboard, does not bode well for the party’s provincial performance.”

Silke said presenting a united front for voters and adopting policies that can satisfy everyone within the party were of paramount importance.

“From the DA’s side, they have to present a unified front within their ranks and they need all the various ‘sub-groupings’ to unite for the purposes of the election like the ANC does, which is quite good at managing the diversity of opinions that exist within a political party and the DA is less successful in this,” he said.

“It is also a matter of finding a set of policy principles which would be a part of the manifesto launch, which are also sufficient to placate the various sides whether it’s on BEE or other matter.

“The policy platform of the DA has to reflect the broad interests of these various groups within the party and therefore the groups need to come together and support them.”

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