Big party failures crystalise as vote count enters final stretch

The full election picture is almost complete. And, as projections have suggested since Tuesday, it’s not a pretty one for the country’s two biggest political parties, which are tallying up an unprecedented list of hung metros.

As of Thursday morning, 98.5% of results across the country had been finalised. The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) is now taking its final steps in the capturing process before it formally declares the results and publishes the names of elected councillors.

But for many parties at the results operation centre in Tshwane, the final confirmation will simply serve as a rubber stamp for a poor performance that has already been apparent throughout much of the week.

For the governing ANC it will be an escalation of the coalition wrangling of 2016 — when it lost a majority in many of its key councils. Parties require 50% of the vote plus one seat to govern metro, local and district municipalities.

As was the case five years ago, Gauteng’s metros will remain hung, but it is the loss of some of the province’s other municipalities that will be most concerning to the governing party this time around. Most notable is a huge loss in Emfuleni (Vanderbijlpark), where an outright majority of 55% tumbled to just less than 40%. It’s a similar story in the surrounding Rand West City (45.33%) and Merafong City (48.97%). With 13 of 26 seats, the ANC will also lose its outright majority in Lesedi.

The Democratic Alliance will be disappointed it could not capitalise on that poor performance in the region. Instead, it has had to contend with its own loss of position — falling by more than 10% in Tshwane and 12% in Johannesburg.

In the ANC stronghold of Mpumalanga, the party lost control of three significant municipalities: Lekwa, Steve Tshwete and Govan Mbeki. The party in the province has already confirmed it will look to enter into coalition talks for their governance.

In highly contested KwaZulu-Natal, meanwhile, the ANC has lost two significant municipalities in eThekwini and uMhlathuze.

In the Western Cape, the DA will share a similar fate of being forced into negotiations. Although it retained the City of Cape Town, it was hammered on the west coast, losing its majority in Saldanha Bay, Matzikama and Cederberg. The party’s share of the vote also dipped to less than 50% in the central Breede Valley and Oudtshoorn and George to the east.

With at least 66 hung councils, of 278, coalition talks countrywide are expected to dominate the agenda over the coming days.

The IEC is scheduled to officially announce the final results of the election at the results centre at 6pm. President Cyril Ramaphosa will be in attendance and is expected to deliver brief remarks.

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Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

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