South Africa’s ruling African National Congress led in votes counted from municipal elections as discontent over joblessness and a lack of basic services lifted support for the main opposition party.
With about 6.1 million votes counted, the ANC had 61.4 percent of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance had 25.9 percent, according to data posted by the Independent Electoral Commission in Pretoria, the capital. The IEC estimates 40 percent of the country’s 23.7 million registered voters cast ballots. The DA and ANC said none of the major cities would change hands.
The ANC could lose a few percentage points nationwide, Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told reporters in Pretoria today. “Any loss is a wake-up call for a political party,” he said. “But we must remember that our traditional voter base doesn’t always come in great numbers for the local elections.”
The ANC has won every election since 1994 with more than 60 percent of the vote as many black supporters remain loyal to the party because of its decades-long fight against apartheid. Now, rising unemployment in a country where one in four people are without jobs, and a lack of basic services such as sanitation in many townships, is beginning to weaken that support.
The DA has calculated that it may win as much as 25 percent of the vote, up from 16.6 percent in 2006, even if Cape Town is the only city it is likely to govern, party election strategist Ryan Coetzee said in an interview in Pretoria.
“There’s been a shift in support from black voters,” Coetzee said. “It’s a matter of momentum growth. It sets up a platform for future growth and for 2014”, when the next presidential and parliamentary elections are held.
Still, Coetzee said the DA was unlikely to win control of any major city outside Cape Town, which it already governs.
While the DA holds a lead in Johannesburg, it says its current figures in that city may drop significantly. The ANC is ahead in Port Elizabeth, which some analysts had expected to fall to the DA.
“For the DA the imperative is to increase its share of the popular vote,” Aubrey Matshiqi, a political analyst at the Center for Policy Studies, said in a phone interview from Johannesburg yesterday. “They need to maintain their momentum. If they go anywhere near 20 percent that would show they are able to attract new black voters.”
A May 16 survey by polling company, Ipsos Markinor, showed the ANC’s support may drop to 59 percent from 66 percent in 2009. The poll of 2,050 likely voters gave the DA 19 percent.
President Jacob Zuma has highlighted the ANC’s role in bringing about democracy and its achievements since taking power, including building 2.7 million homes for the poor and giving 6 million households access to clean water.
“This vote was fought for and people paid a supreme sacrifice,” Zuma said after casting his ballot in his home village of Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.
Africa’s biggest economy shed 14,000 jobs in the first quarter, pushing the unemployment rate to 25 percent, the highest of 61 countries tracked by Bloomberg. South Africa had a record 111 protests against a lack of basic services such as water and housing last year, according to Johannesburg-based Municipal IQ, an independent local government research group.
“I voted for change,” Lebogang Mohlue, 18, a student, said yesterday after voting for the DA in Johannesburg’s Brixton area. “I want to have a job when I finish my studies so I voted for a party that can help create jobs.”
The rand has declined 4 percent against the dollar this year, while the benchmark FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index fell 0.9 percent in the same period. The currency strengthened 0.3 percent to 6.9023 by 9:12 a.m. in Johannesburg.
The ANC won outright control of 200 of South Africa’s 283 municipalities in 2006, while the DA won 7 and formed ruling coalitions in 11 others. Last year, the Independent Democrats, which won 0.9 of the national vote in 2009’s parliamentary elections, agreed to disband and merge with the DA.