The most important story of the election is the huge opposition-party sized hole in the middle of SA politics. Media coverage of each election generates a cliché that claims to explain what happened — in this one it is that the ANC share of the vote dropped more than at any other election. This misses important points. The election was not about comparing the ANC vote with the last general election — its vote has been declining since Jacob Zuma became president and no-one who follows politics expected it to match its 2014 result. The key political question was whether it could halt a slide in which, during the Zuma era, at each election, whether national or local, the ANC has done worse than at the previous ballot. So, while it is right statistically to compare this general election with the last one, political perceptions were about whether the ANC could improve on 2016’s result. This is so because the key issue in the election was not how the ANC would do compared with opposition ...

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