Steady growth in post-Apartheid election results
In the first post-apartheid election in 1994, the DP won only 1.7% of the vote at national level. Under the leadership of Tony Leon, the DP began a new fight: for the legitimacy of opposition in a democratic South Africa.
The 1995 municipal elections marked the beginning of long, steady growth in DP support in South Africa. In the 1999 general elections, the DP increased to a 9% share of the national vote and returned 45 members to Parliament. The DP overtook the National Party, becoming the largest opposition party in the country.
The DP decided that the best way to protect and strengthen democracy in South Africa was to build a strong opposition able to restrict the one-party dominance of the ANC. In 2000, the DP reached a merger agreement with the Federal Alliance and the New National Party (NNP). The Democratic Alliance was formed.
In the December 2000 municipal elections, the DA won a number of municipalities, including the Cape Town Metro.
The relationship between the former DP and NNP within the DA was an uneasy one. It broke down towards the end of 2001 when the NNP leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk took the NNP into an alliance with the ANC.
In the 2004 general election, the DA built on the gains of the DP five years previously, gaining 12.3% of the vote and 50 seats in the National Assembly. The party grew its support in eight out of nine provinces and marked an increase of over 400 000 votes, despite 114 000 fewer votes being cast in the election. The election confirmed the DA’s status as the most popular opposition party, the fastest growing party overall, and the only viable alternative to the ANC.
The DA increased its national share of the vote by a further 4% in the 2006 local government elections – from 12.3% in 2004 to 16.3%. The party gained more representatives in all six of the metropolitan councils, most notably in the Cape Town Metro where the DA increased its share of the vote from 27.1% in 2004 to 41.9%, making the DA the largest party in Cape Town (ANC: 38%). On March 15 2006, Helen Zille – up until that point a DA MP and the party’s national spokesperson – was elected Mayor in a nail-biting contest. She obtained a 2-vote majority which enabled the DA to form a governing coalition of seven parties.