South Africa’s Opposition Party Gains Ground in Municipal Vote

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, increased its share of votes in municipal by-elections yesterday even though the ruling African National Congress won most seats up for grabs.

The DA’s support rose in all of the five local councils it won compared with results two years ago, while the ANC lost votes in 10 of the 15 it secured, according to data on the website of the Independent Electoral Commission.

The ANC has ruled Africa’s largest economy since the first multi-racial elections in 1994 and won 65 percent support in the last national vote in 2009. The DA secured 17 percent. South Africa will hold its next general election by July.

Yesterday’s vote followed the resignation or death of municipal councilors. While local polls give some indication of which party is likely to win an area, they are not an accurate barometer since voter turnout is usually much lower. Just 32 percent of the 111,653 people registered in the 20 wards where results have been finalized cast ballots yesterday, according to the IEC.

The DA retained four seats and won one from the Minority Front. The results indicate the party’s support “is growing in communities across all of South Africa,” DA spokesman Mmusi Maimane said in an e-mail. “These results bode very well for the outcome of next year’s elections.”

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