Early S.Africa poll results show ANC losing support
Results from South Africa's fiercely contested local elections could deliver a setback to the African National Congress (ANC), with early indications on Thursday showing the party that ended apartheid losing support.
With the count well under way, partial results put the ANC ahead nationwide but with its lowest-ever levels of backing.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) was on course to hold Cape Town, ahead in the city of Port Elizabeth, and locked in a close battle for the capital Pretoria and the economic hub Johannesburg.
The ANC has won more than 60 percent of the vote at every election since the country’s first multi-racial vote in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president.
With more than two-thirds of the vote counted, the ANC had 53 percent support nationwide, with the DA on 27 percent and the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on eight percent, according to official results.
The count is seen as a marker ahead of the next general election due in 2019.
The local election is also a mid-term reflection on the performance of President Jacob Zuma, who has been plagued by economic woes and a series of scandals since taking office in 2009.
The ANC has dominated the political landscape since the fall of white-minority rule, but the faltering economy, rampant corruption and soaring unemployment have eaten into the party’s popularity.
“We have shown some incredible growth,” Mmusi Maimane, the DA’s first black leader, told 702 radio.
“We call this the change election because we felt that it was a referendum on Jacob Zuma as a national figure, but we also had a referendum about the future of South Africa.”
Millions of voters queued outside polling stations Wednesday after a fiercely fought and occasionally bitter campaign marked by disputes over alleged racial slurs.
A final Ipsos survey earlier this week had placed the ANC and DA neck and neck in key cities after some undecided voters drifted back to the ruling party.
“Democracy is maturing so you will find… a dilution where you might not have very strong support for one party,” ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize said as results continued to be announced.
“We still remain quite positive.”
– Coalitions loom? –
Both the ANC and DA are likely to be forced to court smaller parties and independent candidates to cobble together some outright municipal majorities.
Even if the ANC maintains its hold on local power through party alliances, any overall drop in support would reveal a shift in the country’s political power balance.
“Simply to form a coalition in Pretoria, the capital, would be an embarrassment,” independent analyst Daniel Silke told AFP.
“What it really will say is that few results are certain in South African politics any more (and) that the certainty the ANC has enjoyed for so long would simply be negated.”
DaMina Advisors, a London-based research firm, said in a note that the early results indicated “public support for the ruling African National Congress has taken a severe nose dive”.
Contesting its first local poll after bursting onto the scene in the 2014 general election, the far-left EFF may emerge as in a kingmaker role.
The party, which won six percent of the national vote in 2014, advocates land redistribution without compensation and the nationalisation of mines.
A record 26.3 million people registered to choose mayors and other local representatives responsible for hot-button issues including water, sanitation and power supplies.
With most of the results due out on Thursday, a major collapse of support for the ANC could pile pressure on Zuma, 74, to step down before his second term ends in 2019.
South Africa’s electoral commission said late Wednesday voting had proceeded smoothly and without major incident.