South Africa’s ruling party ANC faces tough test as election kicks off

South Africa’s ruling party ANC faces tough test as election kicks off

The African National Congress (ANC) faces its toughest electoral test on Wednesday, seeking to reverse a slide in support from voters frustrated by rampant graft and racial inequalities a generation after it won power in South Africa’s first all-race poll.

Voting in parliamentary and provincial elections begins at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and polling stations will close at 9 p.m.. The exact timing of results is uncertain.

The national election is the first under President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018 after four years as Zuma’s deputy.

Ramaphosa, who took over from Zuma as ANC leader in December 2017, is trying to restore faith in the governing party once led by Nelson Mandela after its image was tarnished during Zuma’s decade-long leadership.

The ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994, won 62 percent of the vote in 2014’s parliamentary election — down from 2009 and far short of its best result, 69 percent in 2004 under President Thabo Mbeki.

South African parliamentary and provincial elections take place every five years, with seats allocated according to a proportional representation system.

Support for the ANC has dwindled further in recent years, analysts say, especially in major cities, including the financial and political capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

That is largely due to corruption allegations against government officials, a slowing economy with one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, around 27 percent, and demands from black citizens for more equitable distribution of land.

Ramaphosa has promised to accelerate land redistribution, improve service delivery, create jobs and fight corruption.

Opinion polls predict the ANC will again win a majority of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, but analysts predict its margin of victory will fall.

“The belief is that a poor showing for the ANC would embolden Ramaphosa’s opponents and risk a potential leadership challenge,” Razia Khan, chief Africa economist at Standard Chartered, said in a research report.

 

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