South Africa’s ruling ANC cruising to lead in national vote

A gathering of representatives of smaller parties march to take the stage to protest their claim that the elections were not free or fair, at the Independent Electoral Commission Results Center in Pretoria, South Africa Thursday, May 9, 2019. South Africans voted Wednesday in a national election and preliminary results show that the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) has an early lead in the national elections but has seen its share of the vote drop significantly. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The ruling African National Congress is coasting to a comfortable lead in South Africa’s presidential and parliamentary elections with 80% of the vote counted, but the ongoing tally shows the party getting less support than in the previous poll five years ago.

The ANC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, had 57% of the vote, according to results announced by the electoral commission on Friday. This is a dip from the 62% of the total vote that it won in 2014.

The ANC’s victory, despite its reduced margin, is seen by many as a mandate for Ramaphosa to continue his work to clean up corruption in the party. In the campaign, Ramaphosa acknowledged the problem of graft in the party, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid 25 years ago. He vowed not to have any corrupt members in his Cabinet.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance has received nearly 22% of the vote so far, about the same share it received in the last elections.

The populist, left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters increased its share of the vote from 6% to 10%.

Voter apathy also has been a factor as the turnout of eligible voters is 65%, down from 74% in the previous 2014 election.

More than 40 smaller parties also took part in the election and 31 smaller parties have together lodged a complaint with the electoral commission, complaining of irregularities and calling for an audit of the vote and a possible rerun of the election.

In South Africa, the president and parliament are not elected directly. The number of votes won by each party determines how many representatives are sent to the national 400-seat legislature. The president of the country is the leader of the party that gets the most votes.

Results from South Africa’s more remote areas are expected to trickle in, and electoral officials say final results may not be announced until Saturday.