future – democracy



This research area explores the evolving dynamics of political parties and the challenges confronting contemporary democracies. Projects under this area, recognise the growing disjuncture between political elites and the general populace, heightened voter apathy, and a diminishing political legitimacy. These multifaceted crises require that we, as scholars and global citizens, reimagine the role of political parties and the future of democracy.

Political parties play a pivotal role in addressing these challenges because they must now work to re-establishing trust while ensuring the effective delivery of quality public services. This theme delves into the intricate mechanisms required to rejuvenation democratic systems, institutions and practices. Future-Democracy seeks to understand the complexities of the crisis and explores unprecedented and transformative approaches to reinvigorate democratic processes. Through rigorous inquiry, we aim to contribute to the development of robust frameworks and strategies to evolve our democracies.


This project is a pioneering initiative aimed at unravelling the intricacies of coalition politics across the African continent. Coalitions, how they are formed and how they operate in the African political context is an under-explored area. To contribute to their study, this project will map coalition politics and their broader effect using develop agent-based simulations. This is a new use of this methodology within the African context. The simulations will provide unprecedented insights into the mechanics of coalition politics and they also serve as invaluable resource for researchers, policymakers and forms the basis of our larger goal to build agent-based simulations

This project, which is in association with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Foundation (KAS) South Africa, builds upon an evaluation of party positions of nine political parties, including the DA, IFP, FF+, ACDP, ActionSA, BOSA, UIM, Spectrum, and Rise Mzansi. The second phase of this project will use these findings and the positions articulated in the parties’ 2024 campaign manifestos, media coverage, and confirmation interviews to model the benefits, challenges and effects of coalition politics.


For this project, we have teamed up with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in a dynamic partnership to combat voter apathy. Recognising the vital relationship between youth and democracy, the project addresses the concerning trend of growing youth apathy in South Africa. The project contextualises the phenomenon of ‘waithood,’ a period of dependency and frustration experienced by young people due to high unemployment rates.

In response to the current challenges faced by South African youth, particularly their disconnection from the democratic process, this initiative proposes a Civic Education Project during and post the 2024 election period. Prioritising first-time voters, the project comprises three sub-projects:

1. Never too Young for Civic Education, UP Edition: Focusing on young people aged between 16-19 years, this sub-project aims to raise awareness of democracy and electoral processes. By imparting knowledge about democratic rights and the importance of participation, the project seeks to encourage these first-time voters to actively engage in various election processes. It provides a unique platform for civic engagement for learners from different backgrounds.

2. Waithood Project: Recognising the specific challenge of ‘waithood’ in South Africa, this sub-project aims to create an environment for authentic, inclusive, and consequential deliberation. It seeks to examine the impact of youth apathy in formal political arenas, identify successes and shortfalls of the present institutional framework and explore alternative mechanisms to improve youth democratic capacity.

3. Elections in the Digital Era: In anticipation of the 2024 elections and the potential impact of digital influence, this sub-project aims to unpack the role of online influence, explore the use of misinformation and disinformation in past political campaigns, and investigate the impact digital influence has on the civic and voting landscape of South Africa.

As we embark on this multifaceted endeavour, our aim is to engage, empower and educate the youth, recognising their potential as drivers of democratic change.


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