25. April 2009

ANC to fall short of two-thirds vote

The ANC is set to fall just short of the two-thirds of votes needed to ensure a parliamentary majority sufficient to make sweeping changes unchallenged, election results showed on Saturday. The margin that would let the ANC change the Constitution is largely symbolic, but financial markets wary of a policy shift to the left under the presidency of African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma may welcome a check on the party's power.

With over 98% of ballots in from Wednesday's election, the ANC had just over 66% support. It needed 66,7% to be sure of the two-thirds of parliamentary seats but that no longer appeared achievable. Electoral officials were expected to complete the count on Saturday and announce a result formally. They will also have to calculate the number of seats each party will get.

Although the Congress of the People (Cope) has failed to make a dramatic impact, the ruling party is set to see its share of the vote fall for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. It won nearly 70% in 2004.The ANC also lost control of the Western Cape, centre of the tourist industry, to the official opposition Democratic Alliance, led by Helen Zille.

But the ANC celebrated what was still an overwhelming victory under the leadership of Zuma, who just three weeks ago succeeded in getting a court to drop graft charges his supporters say were politically motivated. The party's credentials for ending white minority rule were more important for many voters than its doubtful record on fighting poverty, violent crime and HIV/Aids. It took the votes of more than half the 23,2-million voters. "The ANC has been given a clear and resounding mandate," senior party official Matthews Phosa told thousands of cheering supporters at a victory party in Johannesburg.

The ANC's closest rival was the Democratic Alliance with just over 16,5%. Cope stood at just over 7,4%. Democratic Alliance supporters celebrated in Western Cape after the party took control in the region. "We will try to govern as well as we can to show that life is better for everybody under the DA," said party leader Zille.

Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission announced on Saturday that the ruling had won the Free State, with 71,9% of the vote. The DA took 12,1% of the vote and Cope 11,11%.

The ANC was also declared the winner in Gauteng with 64,7% of the vote, ahead of the DA, with 21,27% and Cope with 7,78%. The ANC took 62,9% of the vote in KwaZulu-Natal. Tt was followed by the IFP with 22,4%, the DA with 09,1% and Cope with 1,29%. While the ANC's lead was up from 46% in 2004, the IFP's showing was down on the 36,8% it garnered in the previous election. The DA marked an increase from 8% in the province.

The rand firmed well over 2% against the dollar to a new six-and-a-half high late on Friday, aided by a strong euro and higher stocks as well as the smooth election. Despite some market concerns over whether the ANC would get the two-thirds majority, the party has repeatedly emphasised that it has no intention of changing the Constitution.

Zuma (67) has also assured investors he will not be dropping policies they are comfortable with, even though his trade union allies want more help for the poor. Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, a market favourite, also looks set to stay at a time when South Africa faces its first recession in 17 years.

Electoral officials estimated the turnout at more than 77%, a little higher than in 2004. (Mail & Guardian online)

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