There are problems with analysing municipal by-election data compared with, say, the data from a general election. The elections are sporadic and turnouts are low; the data also suffer from self-selection bias to a degree. That hasn't stopped PAUL BERKOWITZ and WAYNE SUSSMAN from teasing out eight trends worth highlighting.
1. It's an ANC and DA show
Political power, at least at the local level, is becoming ever more concentrated in the two big parties. Less than 5% of all wards are in the hands of smaller parties and independents, and that figure continues to fall.
Every so often there is a reversal of fortune, usually at the hands of an independent candidate with grass-roots support, but the general trend is for the ANC and DA to do one of three things: retain their wards; win wards off each other; or take wards off the smaller parties.
Running an election campaign, even for a ward by-election, requires resources. Increasingly, the ANC and DA are the only parties with pockets deep enough to campaign successfully, and there's an increase in ward by-elections where they are the only two parties contesting.
2. The DA is improving its share of the vote