JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress is preparing to celebrate its win in national elections, with the formal announcement coming later on Saturday.
With 99.9% of votes counted, the ANC had 57.5%, the electoral commission said . It was the worst-ever showing at the polls for the party of the late Nelson Mandela, which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid 25 years ago. The party won 62% of the vote in 2014.
Voter turnout was another low at 65%, reflecting the frustrations of many South Africans after corruption scandals around the ANC that led former president Jacob Zuma to resign last year under party pressure. Turnout was 74% in 2014.
Current President Cyril Ramaphosa, a Mandela protege, has vowed to clean up the rot and apologized to South Africans. But his new five-year term is threatened by Zuma allies within the ANC’s leadership, who could pressure the party to oust him from power.
Observers have said South Africa’s economy, the most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, would be further weakened if Ramaphosa is removed by his own party. He narrowly won the party leadership in late 2017, weeks before Zuma was pushed out.
Widespread disillusionment over the ANC and long-standing issues of high unemployment and poor delivery of basic services had been expected to give top opposition parties a boost in Wednesday’s election.
But top opposition party the Democratic Alliance slipped in its share of votes, winning 20.7%, down from 22.2% in 2014. The populist Economic Freedom Fighters in just their second showing in parliamentary and presidential elections did gain ground, winning 10.7% of the vote, up from 6.3% five years ago.
The EFF won support notably among younger voters with its outspoken demands for a bigger share of South Africa’s wealth from the country’s white minority. It struck a chord in a country where unemployment is 27% and many in the black majority struggle to get by. The party also had promised to expropriate white-owned land without compensation and nationalize mines and banks.
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.