If you’re tired of the nonsense published in The New York Times or on the BBC website about yesterday’s local elections in South Africa or can’t bear the spin that will come from ANC (this points to widespread approval of its current leadership) or Democratic Alliance spin doctors (tripling your vote from 2% to 6% among black voters is an achievement), see below the insights of Steven Friedman, still one of the few good political analysts out of South Africa. With his permission I took these from Steven’s Facebook page; he had posted them throughout the morning:

“… We have had tons of analysis but still do not know exactly how this is going to end because most of the township vote is not in yet. Trends so far suggest the ANC will indeed win all metros except Cape Town and that the DA has not made any great inroads among township voters but let us see whether that is confirmed when the big votes come in. So far this has gone as I thought it would!

… Turn-out is interesting – it seems it is actually quite a bit higher than last time. What effect that has on the final vote is something we must wait to see when the township vote comes in.

…On COPE, so far the evidence is that, if your party splits down the middle, you take around half the vote you did last time! That said, I do find the commentary which talks about COPE’s implosion nonsense. The results do suggest that the COPE voters who support Lekota have remained loyal to the party and that COPE will remain a factor in our politics. I find it irritating that cliches become a part of mainstream analysis because people can’t be bothered to think through an issue.

… Race is still an immensely important factor for all voters – we always hear how black township voters are influenced by race but no-one mentions that white suburban voters are too. The key issue in this campaign is that the DA made a massive pitch for black voters. My sense is that they did not make serious inroads. Race will remain important to South African voters for a long time to come.

… I haven’t seen anything in this election to suggest that [a situation in which the ruling party really has to worry that the opposition could beat it in a national election] is now thecase. The DA has run a very effective campaign but they still cannot attract majority black voters in any numbers. The ANC will face a serious threat at the polls only when it splits again and faces an opposition which comes out of the ANC.

… [The DA] may be getting a little too excited about results thus far but they should certainly get over 20% and 25% is not impossible. I think this comes from a consolidation of the opposition vote – the DA has persuaded more opposition voters to come out and vote and to vote specifically for it – and from the fact that some ANC voters have stayed away. So part of the DA’s gain is not because they have won more votes but because the ANC has won less.

… On opposition parties, both we and they should acknowledge that parties can play important roles even if they are not the government: I know of democracies where parties are in opposition for 100 years and they still play a role. Opposition parties should work out what they can do to represent their voters – being in government is not the only way they can do that. Of course, if the ANC splits again and we have very competitive elections, opposition parties may play a role in coalitions but no-one knows when that will happen.

I think the ruling party has two problems. It hasn’t found a way to deal with its internal conflicts and it is becoming alienated from many of its voters who feel that leaders don’t take them seriously. Any ground it has lost are a result of those two factors.

… My sense is that the ANC has not made any inroads this time into the ‘white’ vote. A key reason for the DA’s gains is that they have increased their support among whites and other racial minorities. You may have noticed that, at first, the ANC was way behind in the major metros – it is still behind in Johannesburg. That is because the results which come in first are those from the mainly white suburbs.

… I don’t think we should automatically assume that rural people [still voting for the ANC and not for opposition parties] are less informed. But if you look at the results, it is still clear that race is a much more important issue than rural or urban. In general, South Africans vote their identities – they vote for who for who they think speaks for people like them. Race is very important but so are all sorts of other identity factors including tradition – who your family has supported through the years. Unless the opposition comes out of the ANC it cannot persuade most voters that it shares their identity.”

Learn more about Steven here.