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IPRC Research Meeting – “Eroding Support from Below: Performance in Local Government and Opposition Party Growth in South Africa” with Safia Farole, PhD

How does support for opposition parties in dominant party systems grow? I argue that effective service delivery in local government helps opposition parties grow support in local elections. Using an original dataset of electoral, census, and spatial data at the lowest electoral unit in South Africa (the ward), this work shows that in the areas where it is the incumbent party, support for the Democratic Alliance (DA) party grows as the delivery of basic services to non-white households improves, and when Democratic Alliance party-run wards outperform the neighboring ones run by the ruling African National Congress party, support for the DA increases in neighboring wards. Overall, this study contributes to our understanding of how local politics erode dominant party rule.