The African National Congress was headed for victory in South Africa’s election on Friday, although the party was on course for its worst performance since it took power 25 years ago.
By 1100 GMT, 86% of ballots in 22,925 voting districts had been counted, showing the ANC to be leading the parliamentary race with 57% of the vote. The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) was on 21% and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had garnered 10%.
ANC officials acknowledged the decline in support for the party since the last election in 2014, when it won 62% of the vote, but said the results were still strong enough.
“People have shown they are willing to forgive the ANC,” said Ronald Lamola, a member of the ANC’s top governing body. “We are looking at a clear mandate for our policies.”
Many of those voting on Wednesday for a new parliament and nine provincial legislatures had said they were frustrated by rampant corruption, high unemployment and racial inequalities that persist a generation after the end of white minority rule.
Nelson Mandela’s former liberation party had not won less than a 60% share of the vote since it swept to power in South Africa’s first all-race election in 1994.
Under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in 2018, the ANC had hoped to arrest a slide in support on its faltering efforts to address racial disparities in land ownership, housing and services. Africa’s most advanced economy remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, according to the World Bank.
“The ANC will be elected with a record low of 27 percent of the eligible population backing them, compared with 47 percent in 1999,” said Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex. “This kind of dynamic is not a mandate nor an impetus to change.”