South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) was on track for its nationwide share of the vote to fall below 50% for the first time on Tuesday, according to results from half of the polling stations in local elections facing record low turnout.
In a Monday poll widely seen as a referendum on the ANC’s 27-year stint in charge of Africa’s most industrialised nation, the results showed the ANC on 46% of the vote, with its main rival the Democratic Alliance (DA) getting 23% and the Marxist EFF, led by Julius Malema, in third place with 10%.
The legacy party of Nelson Mandela has faced a backlash over poor service delivery, and analysts have been expecting its share of the vote could fall below half for the first time since it ended white minority rule in 1994.
Local elections are a popularity barometer for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC. At the last municipal polls in 2016 the ANC got around 54%, itself its worst result yet.
Voter turnout fell to roughly 47%, from 58% in the previous local poll, electoral commission initial figures showed, though that was still higher than routinely seen in some rich nations, like Britain and the United States.
The electoral commission said results from half of the country’s 23,000 polling stations had been completed, and it expected 90% of results to be finalised by Tuesday evening.
As well as avoiding the loss of its overall majority, the ANC hopes to win back metropolitan areas it lost to opposition-led coalitions in that poll, including commercial hub Johannesburg and capital Pretoria.
Results for Johannesburg at 1700 GMT gave the ANC 37%, against 22% for the DA, based on early results from 22% of the city’s polling stations. The DA was, meanwhile, leading Tshwane, which includes Pretoria, with 40% of the vote, against the ANC’s 29%, judging by results from 12% of stations.