2019 vs 2014: What the numbers tell us about the general elections

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Election season has come and gone ... well, almost. There's still the inauguration of a president – we now know that to be Cyril Ramaphosa – and the announcement of a new Cabinet. After that we'll see the opening of South Africa's sixth parliamentary term since those historic first democratic elections in 1994.

But before we get to those processes over the next few weeks, it's worth understanding what the numbers tell us about the latest election and the course the results will chart for the country over the the next five years.

Let's start with the high-level numbers of the 2019 polls.

How many people were eventually registered and eligible to vote?

  • 26 779 025
  • In 2014, 25 388 082 were registered to vote.
  • That's an increase of 5.48% in the number of people who are eligible to vote.

So, did more people vote in this elections?

  • The short answer is no.
  • While more people were registered to vote in the 2019 elections, 983 155 fewer people actually voted this year.
  • In 2014, 18 654 771 people voted, while "only" 17 671 616 voters cast their ballot this time around.
  • This ultimately means the voter turnout dropped from 73.48% in 2014 to 65.99% this year.

Were more votes spoilt this year if there are suggestions of voter apathy?

  • While the real number of spoilt votes remains high at 235 472 of all national ballots cast in 2019, more votes were spoilt in 2014.
  • In 2014, the number was 252 274. This formed 1.35% of all the national ballots cast in that year.
  • This year the rate of spoilt ballots to all votes cast nationally was 1.33%.
  • This may indicate a lot of people still aren't finding credible, compelling political options.

Are South Africans losing interest in elections?

  • This will need more than just numbers to answer comprehensively but the numbers do tell us part of the story.
  • In 2014, the turnout figure was 73.48%.
  • This year, South Africa registered a voter turnout of 65.99% for the national ballot. This means voter turnout dropped by almost 7.5 percentage points.
  • The highest voter turnout percentage was most likely in 1994, but as there was no voters roll, a figure was never defined.
  • In 1999, five years after that historic poll, the voter turnout rate was 89.3%.
  • While the voter turnout rate is declining, it remains higher than the rate in America, but lower than that of Brazil, Botswana and Ghana.

The FF Plus' Dr Pieter Groenewald at the ROC. (Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24)

Who are the biggest growers?

  • The EFF and FF Plus, considered polar opposites ideologically, are the only two major national parties that registered growth in all nine provinces and nationally when compared to their 2014 numbers.
  • The EFF, contesting its second general election, registered the biggest increases, growing by 4.44 percentage points on the national vote.
  • Its growth also means it is now the official opposition in three provinces, adding Mpumalanga to North West and Limpopo where it already held this title from 2009.
  • This year, 1 881 521 voters put their Xs next to Julius Malema's face, while in 2014, their were 1 169 259 marks next to his image on national ballots.
  • In 2014, the FF Plus received 165 715 national votes. This time around, 414 864 people voted for the party. This is the party's best performance in a general election.
  • The IFP get an honourable mention for growing its support nationally, in Gauteng and in KwaZulu-Natal, where it will once again be the official opposition, after the DA claimed that spot in the province in 2009.
Mmusi Maimane, verkiesing 2019
DA leader Mmusi Maimane at the results centre. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

And finally, who are the biggest losers?

  • While the ANC won a sixth consecutive national election, it shed 4.65 percentage points from its 2014 levels in the process.
  • In 2014, the party garnered 11 436 921 votes. This year 10 026 475 people voted for the black, green and gold on their national ballots, meaning it shed 1 410 446 votes from 2009 to now. Not a small number in anyone's books.
  • The DA also saw its national support declining, with 470 396 fewer people voting for the party in this polls than those who did 2009. However, the drop in votes wasn't significant enough to shift it from its position as the official opposition in the National Assembly.
  • Bantu Holomisa won't be a happy leader – his UDM lost more than half of its support, going from 184 636 votes secured in 2009, to 78 030 Xs this year.
  • Mosiuoa Lekota's COPE party shed almost two-thirds of the support it received in 2009.

Find everything you need to know about the 2019 National and Provincial Government Elections at our News24 Elections site, including the latest news and detailed, interactive maps for how South Africa has voted over the past 3 elections. Make sure your News24 app is updated to access all our elections coverage in one place.

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