The challenges of transitioning from opposition to governing party: the case study of the Democratic Alliance in South Africa’s Western Cape Province.
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Opposition, rivalry or competition between government and its opponents is an important aspect of democratisation (Dahl:1973). The role of opposition in strengthening democracy cannot be understated, it has become common knowledge that liberal democratic systems rely quite heavily on institutional opposition. However, opposition parties also need to prepare themselves to govern. Opposition parties that prepare themselves for government must also have a distinct set of policies which they would have to implement if were to become the governing party. This poses a dilemma for opposition parties as the resources that they invest in these preparations could be used to make them effective opposition. This research uses South Africa’s Western Cape province as its case study. The rationale for choosing the Western Cape is because it is the only province, in South Africa, where an opposition party has successfully made the transition from opposition to governing party. This research will answer the following questions: (1) What do opposition parties have to do in order to prepare themselves to govern? (2) What challenges did the Democratic Alliance face when it first governed? The research relied on textual data as a result qualitative research method was deemed appropriate. While at the Western Cape provincial level the DA was prepared to govern, the study found that the DA efforts at the national level were hampered by ideological confusion and lack of clear and distinct policy goals. The study also deduced that the DA needs to fine tune its communication strategy so that its policies are clear to the South African public.