News & events


10 June 2024

Elections 2024: The big no-vote: over 11 million registered voters did not cast ballots in 2024 polls 

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

By Victoria O’Regan for Daily Maverick

In a Daily Maverick article titled ‘The big no-vote: over 11 million registered voters did not cast ballots in 2024 polls’ Victoria O’Regan writes about the dearth of voter participation in South Africa’s 2024 national election. To get a clearer picture of the situation, she spoke to experts in the field, including Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, associate professor of political science at Stellenbosch University and the HSRC’s Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller, divisional executive in the Developmental, Capable and Ethical State unit.

Below is an excerpt from the piece:

The voter turnout has declined from 89.3% in 1999 to an all-time low of 58.6% in the 2024 general elections. Of a registered voter population of 27.7 million people, only 16.2 million cast their ballots last Wednesday.

That so many people did not vote in what were regarded as watershed elections, needs great introspection.

Six months before the polls in December 2023, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) conducted its voter participation survey, which HSRC executive director, Narnia Bohler-Muller, says gives us some insight into why voters did not want to cast their vote.

“We’ve said quite often through our research that satisfaction with democracy has declined substantially in South Africa. Obviously, the vote is one of the ways in which you express your satisfaction with democracy… And it’s possible that those who are dissatisfied with the way democracy’s working in South Africa would not want to go vote,” Bohler-Muller told Daily Maverick.

According to the HSRC survey, in 2023, 57% of South Africans were dissatisfied with democracy.

The HSRC found that political discontent and disillusionment “emerged as the main reason for electoral abstention,” consistent with past voter participation research. When asked what their main reason would be for not voting if the national elections were held tomorrow, 81% of people had responded, “disillusionment”.

Bohler-Muller said the HSRC findings showed there was a strong sentiment around people’s right to vote and the belief that it is a civic duty to vote, but there was a despondency around whether one’s vote actually mattered.”

We encourage readers to read the full article on Daily Maverick here.

Photo: Ashraf Hendricks, Ground Up

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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