Published:  12:13 AM, 11 May 2019

Victory in sight for ANC in closely-watched SA poll

Victory in sight for ANC in closely-watched SA poll South African President Cyril Ramaphosa greeted voters before casting his ballot at a primary school in Soweto. -AFP

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa's ruling ANC was in touching distance of election victory on Friday (May 10) but with diminished support, complicating efforts to revive the country's flagging economy and fight corruption, results showed.

The African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994, held a very comfortable lead with nearly 57 per cent after three-quarters of voting districts were officially tallied following Wednes-day's vote. But the result would be the party's worst national showing since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the first multi-racial polls after apartheid ended in 1994.

Ramaphosa, 66, took over last year when the party forced then-president Jacob Zuma to resign after nine years dominated by corruption allegations and economic problems.He was expected to visit the Electoral Commission (IEC) results operation centre in Pretoria at 8am GMT (4pm Singapore time). "We're going to be the government, whether there is decline or increase," said the ANC's chairman Gwede Mantashe late on Thursday.

Results released by the IEC showed the ANC's closest rival, the main opposition Demo-cratic Alliance (DA) trailing with a distant 22 per cent of the vote. The Economic Freedom Fighters, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was in third place with almost 10 per cent. Final results are expected to be officially certified on Saturday.

A new projection by South Africa's respected Council for Scientific and Industrial Research forecast the ANC would win with 57 per cent - a five percentage point drop from the last election in 2014.Jessie Duarte, the ANC deputy secretary-general, said the partial results were neither a "disappointment" nor a "surprise".

"What I think is important to recognize is the deepening of our democracy," she said at the IEC in Pretoria.The party that wins the most seats in parliament selects the president, who will be sworn in on May 25."This is an election that will really offer the ANC a last chance to kick start economic growth," said analyst Daniel Silke. "The pressure is really on Ramaphosa in the next five years."

Ramaphosa has so far faced resistance to his reform agenda, especially from Zuma's allies who still occupy several high-ranking positions in the party and government.After casting his ballot on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the election was "heralding a new dawn ... a period of renewal, a period of hope".

The ANC's reputation was badly sullied under Zuma. Its support has fallen in every election since 2004 with the party taking 54 per cent in 2016 municipal elections, compared with 62 per cent in 2014's national vote.Anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and the ANC were swept to power with a landslide in the country's first multi-racial elections that marked the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Most opinion polls before the vote had suggested the ANC would secure nearly 60 percent of the vote because of Ramaphosa's appeal and a fractured opposition.Forty-eight parties contested the elections - a record number.The conservative and predominantly white Freedom Front Plus party, founded in 1994 during the negotiations to end apartheid, was performing strongly as the fourth biggest party in the vote.

The ANC has been confronted by deepening public anger over its failure to tackle poverty and inequality in the post-apartheid era."We have given them 25 years but the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer," said voter Anmareth Preece, 28, a teacher. "We need a government that governs for the people, not for themselves."


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