The African National Congress (ANC) has picked up 65.9% of the national vote, falling just short of a two-thirds majority in parliament. Lawmakers are expected to elect the party's leader Jacob Zuma to South Africa's presidency on May 9.
REUTERS - South Africa's ruling ANC won a huge victory in the country's election but fell short of the two-thirds of votes needed to ensure a parliamentary majority big enough to make sweeping constitutional changes unchallenged.
Final results of the election -- which will see African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma becoming South Africa's president on May 9 -- showed on Saturday that the ruling party won 65.9 percent of the vote.
The margin that would let the ANC change the constitution is largely symbolic. Despite some market concerns over whether the ANC would get the two-thirds majority, the party repeatedly has stressed that it has no intention of changing the constitution.
Financial markets wary of a policy shift to the left under a Zuma presidency may welcome a limit on the party's power.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said the result meant the ANC now had to worry more about the opposition than it had since the party took power 15 years ago.
"The effect of them not getting the two-thirds, despite the euphoria, really underlines that there has been a drop in the ANC vote," he said.
"The ANC has to worry more about the opposition now than it has had to do since democracy."
Electoral officials were expected to announce a result formally later on Saturday. They will also have to calculate the number of seats each party will get.
Although a newly formed party of ANC dissidents has failed to make a dramatic impact, the ruling party has seen its share of the vote fall for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994. It won nearly 70 percent in 2004.
The ANC also lost control of the Western Cape province, centre of the tourist industry, to the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), led by Helen Zille, a white woman.
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 AIDS.
"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.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga congratulated the ANC and Zuma on Saturday, saying the ruling party's victory resonated well beyond South Africa's borders.
"After many dubious elections, undemocratic transfers of power and even coups in some African countries in recent days, it is refreshing to see one clean election and a clean victory on the continent," Odinga said.
The ANC's closest rival was the DA with 16.66 percent. The Congress of the People (COPE), formed by politicians who broke from the ruling party, stood at 7.42 percent.
Inkatha Freedom Party support waned to 4.56 percent of the vote from 6.97 percent in 2004. The ANC also made inroads into the IFP's traditional support base in KwaZulu-Natal province, home to South Africa's Zulus -- the biggest tribal group of which Zuma is a member.
Electoral officials said the turnout was 77.3 percent, a little higher than in 2004.
DA supporters celebrated in Western Cape after the party took control in the region, where coloured people of mixed race descent outnumber black Africans.
"We will try to govern as well as we can to show that life is better for everybody under the DA," party leader Zille was quoted as saying by the SAPA news agency.
The rand currency firmed well over 2 percent against the dollar to a new 6-1/2-month high late on Friday, aided by a strong euro and higher stocks as well as the smooth election.
Zuma, 67, has 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.
Date created : 2009-04-25