South African vote and census data

The following is not my post. It is a comment by Manuel on an earlier post. It is so interesting in its detail, that I thought it deserved to be “promoted” to a central place in the virtual orchard.

A few weeks ago I finally included on my website’s South Africa page the results of last May’s election; I also took the opportunity to run some correlations between the election results and South African census data. Initially I worked at the level of the country’s 213 local municipalities, where I found a very high inverse correlation (-0.90) between the DA share of the vote and the black African percentage of the population in the 2011 census; that figure remained at -0.88 when census figures were substituted with data from the 2016 Community Survey.I also found a very high correlation at the municipal level of 0.90 between the share for the right-wing VF+ (whose vote increased noticeably in the election) and the percentage of Afrikaans-speaking whites over the total population in 2011 (0.91 when using 2016 Community Survey data).

In fact, the municipal-level results of last May’s election showed that in municipalities where the population is 95%+ black African (on average 98% black and 1% white), the DA vote came down to about 5%, behind EFF and even IFP, while ANC remained far ahead with 70% of the vote; the exact figures vary depending on whether 2011 or 2016 population figures are used for the analysis.

However, for good measure I ran the correlations at the electoral ward level – the lowest level for which both election results and 2011 detailed population statistics are readily available (the 2016 Community Survey data doesn’t go below the local municipality level). There are currently a total of 4,392 wards in South Africa, and at this level the inverse correlation between the DA share of the vote and the percentage of black Africans was even stronger, standing at -0.93. Meanwhile, the correlation between the VF+ share of the vote and the percentage of white Afrikaners over the total population remained at 0.90.

In addition, clear voting patterns emerged when wards were grouped by race majority (or plurality): DA won handily in majority white, Coloured or Indian/Asian wards, but dropped to single digits and came behind EFF in majority black African wards, where ANC won a sweeping victory (95% of black South Africans live in majority black wards, while 74% of Coloureds and 61% of whites reside in majority Coloured and white wards, respectively; the majority black wards are 93% black, while the majority Coloured wards are 75% Coloured and the majority white wards are 63% white; the majority Indian/Asian wards are 64% Indian/Asian, but only account for 38% of that group’s overall population).

Separately, I also tested a fifth, “no race dominant” category (no racial group over 50% and second largest group at or above 25%), but I found it made little difference in the results for the other groups. Overall, the “no race dominant” category was plurality black with a sizable white minority not far behind, as well as substantial numbers of Coloureds and Indians/Asians. In the election that additional category went solidly for DA, although by considerably less than the combined non-black majority (white-Coloured-Indian/Asian) wards, while ANC didn’t do nearly as well as the increased percentage of blacks (relative to the non-black group) would have suggested; on the other hand the EFF vote appeared to be largely in line with the increase in the percentage of blacks.

Speaking of EFF, in an earlier comment I had compared its result with that of the far-right HNP in the 1981 white House of Assembly election. However, after going over ward figures grouped by race on a province-by-province basis that assessment needs to be qualified. Even just looking at the majority black wards, EFF remained at best below 20% and nearly fifty points behind ANC; by contrast, in 1981 many National Party MPs were horrified to see their HNP challengers – who usually polled in the single digits – rack up 30% of the vote, and in some cases even more. As such, EFF isn’t quite yet as strong a challenger to ANC on the left – even among blacks – as HNP was to NP on the right among Afrikaners back in 1981, but that could change in the years ahead.

In fact, a far more apt analogy with the rise of HNP in 1981 among Afrikaner voters would be precisely the substantial vote increase for VF+, which had its best showing in majority white wards, where it won 11% of the vote; it fared poorly elsewhere, polling just 2% even in Coloured wards, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact it had Peter Marais, a former Cape Town mayor, Western Cape premier and notorious party hopper as its Western Cape candidate for premier (Mr. Marais has switched parties over half-a-dozen times in the past twenty-five years). In fact, the low VF+ share in Coloured wards was strongly correlated (0.84) to the 6% white minority (mostly Afrikaners) living in those wards. Moreover, within the majority white wards there was a wide gap in VF+ support between wards where whites were predominantly English-speaking, and those where they were mainly Afrikaans-speaking: VF+ polled just 3% in the former but reached 15% in the latter. The latter figure rose to 23% and 24% in the white majority wards of the North-West and Limpopo provinces (25% and 23% in the provincial ballot), where the white population remains overwhelmingly Afrikaner. This turn of events may well be a South African manifestation of the worldwide surge of the populist right, but also the recurrence of a historical phenomenon among Afrikaners, or a combination of both. In any event, earlier this summer VF+ went on to win by a landslide (albeit on a low turnout) a municipal by-election in a Stilfontein (City of Matlosana) ward where it had narrowly outvoted DA in the May provincial ballot.

There were also fairly evident voter turnout differences among the four ward groups: white majority wards had a far higher turnout rate (78%) than black- or Coloured-majority wards (65% in each case) or Indian/Asian majority wards (68%).

Finally, the ward-level election results show two very different South Africas co-existing side by side: one comprised by wards where black Africans constituted at least 95% of the population (on average over 99%), in which ANC swept the election on a 63% turnout with 73% of the vote, far ahead of EFF (13%), IFP (5%) and DA (4%); and another made up of wards in the rest of the country, where black Africans constituted 49% of the population, Coloureds and whites 22% each and Indians/Asians 6%, and where DA prevailed over ANC, 42% to 38%, with EFF polling 8% and VF+ 5%, on a 70% turnout rate.

Party lists for South Africa 2019

South Africa’s general election is approaching–8 May. Parties are releasing their lists. EWN reports the names of the top 20 candidates on the national list of the Democratic Alliance (and has a link to the rest of the lists).

Meanwhile, africanews reports that the African National Congress has been criticized for having “tainted politicians” who were close to former president Jacob Zuma on its list. For instance,

Zuma allies Nomvula Mokonyane, the environment minister who was recently implicated in graft at a corruption inquiry, and Bathabile Dlamini who was at the centre of a benefits payments fiasco, are named among the top 10 candidates on the list.

As a political analyst, Ralph Mathekga, is quoted as saying: “The ANC list is very revealing.”

Perhaps so, and that is a reminder that it is not true (as critics of closed lists often claim) that candidates do not matter when the list is closed and thus voters are unable to vote for specific candidates. In fact, the set of candidates a party selects, especially in top and thus safe ranks (for a major party) do provide clues about the party’s priorities. In the ANC’s case, presumably one of the priorities is to keep the different wings of the party within the tent, even if that means potentially diluting its message of having tackled corruption by ousting the previous incumbent leader, thereby allowing it to enter this election with a new incumbent at the helm. Beneath that level, of course, it is the same party.

Other parties, like the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters, will use the slate of candidates against the ANC. The candidates do matter–even on closed lists! Or at least opposition parties may act as if they do. Whether voters will vote against a ruling party because they do not like specific candidates in various ranks is, of course, another matter.

South Africa: No confidence vote looming?

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa is attempting to get President Jacob Zuma to resign. Media coverage of this (such as a BBC story from 5 Feb.) too often implies that this is a “normal” presidency with a fixed term. However, despite the title, as far as executive survival in office is concerned, South Africa’s head of government is a prime minister. He can be removed by a vote of no confidence.

See the Constitution of South Africa, Article 102(2):

If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the President, the President and the other members of the Cabinet and any Deputy Ministers must resign.

It could hardly be more clear than that. So if the ANC (which has far more than a majority of assembly seas) wants Zuma out, there’s no question how this will end. Zuma may have his own reasons to want to make the party go through the spectacle of a no-confidence vote, rather than step down “voluntarily”, but he does indeed serve at their pleasure.

It is also not as if is unusual in parliamentary systems for parties to replace their leader and the prime minister before an election. In Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers, David Samuels and I show that roughly a third of PMs in parliamentary democracies lose office by an intra-party procedure (rather than by losing a general election or leading a coalition that collapses). We did not note the timing of such removals relative to elections, but there is little doubt that many of the party-initiated removals take place closer to the next election than the preceding one. (In most such systems, the election can be called early on initiative of the new PM. The South African constitution also has a provision for early election, at the initiative of the assembly majority itself–Art. 50.)

Already this past December the ANC’s convention narrowly voted to elect Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the party (over Zuma’s ex-wife). He will lead the party in the campaign for the general election of 2019, whether or not Zuma is still president at the time.

A key difference in South Africa, compared to most other parliamentary systems, is that the prime minister is also the head of state–hence the title, President. In fact, other constitutional provisions in South Africa seem lifted from an actual presidential system (i.e., one in which the head of government is popularly elected for a fixed term). For instance, Article 89 has a provision for impeachment:

  1. The National Assembly, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two thirds of its members, may remove the President from office only on the grounds of ­

a. a serious violation of the Constitution or the law;

b. serious misconduct; or

c. inability to perform the functions of office.

It is hard to imagine what this is doing in a parliamentary constitution! If, like most parliamentary republics, the head of state (“President”) and the head of government (“Prime Minister”) were separate persons, the presence of both provisions quoted here would make sense. But what purpose does an impeachment clause, requiring a super majority, have in a constitution that lets the assembly remove the combined president/PM by a much simpler procedure?

The pressure is ramping up, the State of the Nation speech has been postponed, and the rumors are running rampant ahead of a special meeting of the NEC. The party leadership body could “recall” him in a manner similar to how Thabo Mbeki’s term ended early in 2008. However, that is a party procedure with no legal standing and thus would not be binding on the President.

Will he resign, or will the ANC need to invoke Art. 102?

 

How unusual is South Africa?

[Update: I added in a comment a list of cases with streaks of four or more elections with largest party having over half the vote.]

Given the news that a proposed merger of two opposition parties in South Africa was called off, I was wondering just how unusual is South Africa in having had a string of elections in which one party won a substantial majority of the vote.

Querying a dataset of over 1000 elections in countries that can be considered democracies (including many developing countries and young democratic regimes), the answer is: quite unusual.

The mean vote share of the largest party in these 1,148 elections is .42. In South Africa’s four democratic elections to date, the ANC has averaged .64. Such a high figure is just beyond the 95th percentile (.63) of the worldwide distribution.

Of course, the failure of opposition parties to offer a clear alternative does not help the cause of “normalizing” South Africa relative to other democracies. On the other hand, the extreme PR system also is an impediment. While normally, the more extreme the PR, the less likely is a party with over half the votes, if your starting point is a hegemonic party, then extreme PR presumably inhibits the development of an opposition that could challenge the leader. That is, numerous very small parties can all win their share without unifying, and the benefits from unifying are less clear for parties than they would be in a country with either a less proportional system or direct presidential elections (or both).

Speaking of direct presidential elections, the distribution of the worldwide data does not change much if we focus only on parliamentary systems, although there is small (and totally insignificant) tendency for bigger shares for the largest party under presidential systems (mean .43, although 95th percentile .61).

South Africa electoral lists

This year is election year in South Africa, and the ruling ANC has set up an “integrity committee” to scrutinize the candidate lists with the goal of eliminating corrupt candidates.

IOL News quotes Malusi Gigaba, identified as the party’s “election head”:

The list conference has the final say and the integrity committee could actually recommend that some candidates could be pulled off the list for this and that valid reason.

Business Day Live offers its list of seven members it says should be purged, and claims that in the past the party has either “redeployed” to other positions those MPs who pled guilty to corruption charges, or even renominated them to Parliament. It argues that the electoral system is at the root of the problem:

South Africa does not have a constituency-based electoral system, so none of these people ever had to answer to the actual people who elected them to office. Instead, those people were forced to rely on the ANC, which draws up the lists, to take into account their concerns. That never happened in 2009. In 2014, the party has another chance to show how seriously it takes the public. At the forefront of that battle will be its integrity committee.

South Africa uses closed-list PR, with MPs elected from nine basic districts whose magnitudes range from 5 to 47 (mean 22.2), plus a 200-seat nationwide district for which there is a separate list. With the ANC dominant (just under 66% of the votes in 2009), it has some very long lists of candidates whom it can assure election through the ranking process.

The compiling of lists begins at a conference on 3 February.