ANC grip on two thirds slips

The African National Congress (ANC) looked in danger late on Friday of losing its grip on a two-thirds majority in this week’s elections that swept Jacob Zuma to power.

With nearly 16-million votes counted, the party saw its runaway lead in the fourth post-apartheid poll contract to 66,3%, making Zuma’s earlier boast that he saw 70% beckoning seem idle.

But even if it narrowly misses the majority needed to change the Constitution, no opposition party could deny that voters had handed Zuma a resounding mandate in an election marked by attacks on his integrity.

The Democratic Alliance (DA), which launched a “Stop Zuma” campaign after he was let off the hook on corruption and fraud charges recently, was lying at around 16% and seemed assured of
claiming an outright majority in the Western Cape.

DA leader and premier candidate Helen Zille headed home to a hero’s welcome and hinted that despite a preliminary score of 51% in the racially divided region she would start coalition talks with smaller parties.

These would likely include the Congress of the People (Cope), born out of Zuma’s power struggle with former president Thabo Mbeki, that has established itself as the third biggest force in South African politics despite being only months old.

The breakaway party said late on Friday it was hoping to fill as many as 40 seats in Parliament after claiming well over a million votes in its first test at the polls.

“We think we can make a difference with 40. We can be present in all meaningful portfolio committees and select committees,” spokesperson JJ Tabane said.

Analysts said it was “remarkable” feat for a new party and has proven that there were black voters looking for a new political home alternative after 15 years of ANC rule.

Aubrey Matshiqi from the Centre for Policy Studies forecast that Cope would eventually dethrone the DA as the official opposition.

Other smaller opposition conceded on Friday that they had suffered painful losses in the election, which could partly be a result of voters turning away to place their trust in newcomer Cope.

The United Democratic Movement and Freedom Front Plus were at best hoping to retain the seats they had won in 2004, while the Independent Democrats were sure to lose some.

The Inkatha Freedom Party conceded that it was expecting to get 20 seats, down from 28 in 2004, as the ANC claimed to have taken every IFP stronghold in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We have made history,” ANC provincial secretary Senzo Mchunu told a press briefing in Durban.

“For the first time the ANC has received a majority [in KZN].”

The once proud Pan Africanist Congress was optimistically hoping for two seats, after the three it gained in the last election.

Vote counting slowed on Friday as fatigue set in after an election that tested voters’ patience in long queues and caught the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) off-guard as ballot papers ran out.

By nightfall, counting had been completed in 93,34% of the country’s 19 734 voting districts.

IEC chairwoman Brigalia Bam said she was certain that the count would wrap later in the evening and the final results for the national and provincial ballot would be announced by Saturday.

“We will definitely complete by this evening. The IEC may declare the results by tomorrow.”

Briefing the media at the IEC results centre in Pretoria, Bam said the counting of in two provinces had been completed. These were Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, with 4 483 and 626 voting districts respectively.

Bam said that 12 objections had been submitted, which the commission needed to examine before the final results were announced.

The objections were raised by Cope, the IFP
and the DA, but IEC chief electoral officer Pansy Tlakula declined to elaborate on the nature of the complaints.

She added voter turnout for the poll was “fluctuating” but that the figure stayed close to 77%.—Sapa

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