ANC Slippage in South African Election Won’t Dent Dominance

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress headed for a fifth consecutive election victory with three-quarters of voting districts counted, even as the main opposition parties chipped away at its dominance.

With ballots counted in 75.1 percent of the 22,263 voting areas, the ANC’s support stood at 62.5 percent, according to provisional figures from the Independent Electoral Commission. Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance won 22.5 percent, and the Economic Freedom Fighters, a party formed in October by expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema, was third with 5.3 percent.

“The final results should be broadly similar to where they stand now,” Mike Davies, founder of political advisory company Kigoda Consulting, said by phone from Cape Town. “While the ANC may lose some support to the DA and the EEF, it won’t be sufficient to change South Africa’s political power dynamics.”

Twenty years after taking power under Nelson Mandela, the ANC still enjoys strong backing among the black majority for ridding the country of white-minority rule. The party has bolstered its support by providing welfare grants to almost one in three citizens and increasing access to housing, water and electricity. It won 66 percent of the vote in 2009 compared with the DA’s 17 percent.

“We ran a good campaign,” ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said at the national results center in Pretoria. “We don’t run away from issues, we speak to them and address them.”

Growing Impatience

The ANC’s dominance may be eroded by a 25 percent unemployment rate and growing impatience among poor communities that are still waiting for living conditions to improve. There were 214 protests in the first quarter over the lack of housing, decent sanitation and other services, according to data from the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies.

The ANC will win 63.7 percent, the DA 21.9 percent and the EFF 4.6 percent, according to a mathematical model by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, also based in Pretoria, which has used early results to predict previous elections to within 0.5 percent of the actual figures.

The CSIR’s predictions tally with a poll released by Ipsos on May 2, which showed 63 percent of 3,370 registered voters interviewed in February and March supported the ANC, while 22 percent backed the DA and 5 percent the EFF.

The ANC will remain in charge of eight of South Africa’s nine provinces, while the DA will strengthen its control over the Western Cape, according to the CSIR. Voter turnout probably fell five percentage points to 72 percent, its lowest yet, the CSIR model predicts.

Jobs Pledge

“The ANC has not been weakened significantly,” CSIR mathematician Hans Ittmann said in an interview in Pretoria today. “Its share of the vote has decreased by about two percent, but it’s not huge.”

Victory for the ANC would assure a second and final term for President Jacob Zuma, who has been accused by the nation’s graft ombudsman of unduly benefiting from a state-funded 215 million-rand ($21 million) upgrade of his private home at Nkandla in the eastern KwaZulu-natal province. Zuma denies any wrongdoing.

“Nkandla didn’t have a direct dramatic impact on the election results,” Dirk Kotze, a politics professor at the University of South Africa, said in an interview at the results center. “The ANC hasn’t gone below 60 percent so they will interpret that as a new mandate. But there are some provinces like Limpopo and Mpumalanga where they have lost significant support.”

Jobs Pledge

The ANC has pledged to create 6 million “job opportunities,” build 1 million homes for the poor, improve education and health care and give black citizens a bigger stake in the economy over the next five years.

The rand gained a third straight day, adding 1.3 percent to 10.3218 per dollar by 6:11 p.m. in Johannesburg, the strongest since Dec. 26 on an intraday basis. Yields on government bonds due December 2026 dropped 20 basis points, or 0.14 percentage point, to 8.13 percent.

“There are no surprises in this election,” Thabi Leoka, head of South African research at Renaissance BJM Capital by phone from Johannesburg today. “It is quite clear that the ANC will get an overwhelming majority, as was expected. Domestically, there’s nothing that would make investors anxious.”

Twenty-nine parties participated in the contest for the 400 seats in the national legislature, which elects the president, and 25.4 million people registered to cast ballots.

The election will also decide the composition of nine provincial legislatures. The IEC expects to release final result by May 10.

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