Function of electoral communication in a developing democracy : the case of South Africa

12 Apr 2012

This article investigates the unique challenges facing political parties in terms of their communicative responsibilities in a developing democracy as demonstrated by the electoral communication of political parties in the national elections in South Africa over the past 14 years. Election posters, radio and television advertising messages were analysed and discussed in the light of the informational and interpretational functions of political parties. Messages were analysed in terms of the use of emotional and cognitive message structures, the use of negative messages in comparing party policies on specific issues, as well as the portrayal of leaders. Messages were also analysed to determine whether they had contributed to the advancement of the political debate in a developing democracy. The conclusion that the communicative responsibilities of political parties imply that they ideally should assist voters in reaching informed decisions, stimulate public debate on politically sensitive issues without harming democracy and encourage citizens to exercise their democratic responsibility to participate in the democratic process was reached.