Early results suggest ANC to retain power in South Africa

PRETORIA: Results from nearly half of voting districts in South Africa’s election put the African National Congress on course to retain power but at risk of its worst performance in a national poll since the end of white minority rule 25 years ago.
As of 1400 GMT on Thursday, votes in 48 per cent of 22,925 voting districts had been counted. The early tallies put the ANC on 57 per cent in the parliamentary race, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on nearly 23 per cent and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on nearly 9 per cent.
Based on those results, political analyst Melanie Verwoerd predicted the ANC was set for a vote share of 56-57 per cent.
The former liberation party of Nelson Mandela has not taken less than 60 per cent of votes in a national election since it swept to power in South Africa’s first all-race poll in 1994. “The ANC result is going to be lower because of voter turnout, which could be the lowest at any parliamentary election since 1994,” Verwoerd said.
“Turnout has been lower in areas where more black voters live, while the turnout has been higher in the white areas.”
South Africans voting on Wednesday for a new parliament and nine provincial legislatures had expressed frustration at rampant corruption, high unemployment and racial inequalities that persist 25 years after apartheid ended.
Analysts have said that a poor showing for the ANC would embolden opponents of President Cyril Ramaphosa and risk a potential leadership challenge against him. The elections are the first test of national sentiment since Ramaphosa replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.
“As long as the ANC gets more than 55 per cent, things will be okay for Ramaphosa inside the ANC,” Verwoerd said.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a government agency, also forecast a decline in support for the ANC, which it predicted would get just over 57 per cent in the parliamentary vote and about 50 per cent in the provincial polls.
Turnout on Wednesday was just over 65 per cent, according to the votes processed so far, the Electoral Commission said.
ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte said she expected the ANC’s vote share to grow as results from larger voting districts filtered through.
“By late afternoon we will know where we stand,” she said.
Duarte said voter turnout could end up below the 65-70 per cent range the ANC estimated late on Wednesday when most polling stations had closed.
Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo said the Electoral Commission hoped that results from around 90 per cent of voting districts would be declared by 10 pm local time (2000 GMT), with the remaining results to be released on Friday morning.
Ramaphosa is trying to arrest a slide in support for the ANC, whose image has been tarnished in the last decade by corruption scandals and a weak economy.
At the last election in 2014, the ANC won 62 per cent of votes, the DA 22 percent and the EFF 6 per cent. The rand and government bonds firmed in early trade on Thursday, but traders said the currency was expected to be volatile as results emerge.