With about 85 percent of the vote counted, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress — the party that ended apartheid — is ahead nationwide but is seeing its worst electoral performance since the end of white minority rule 22 years ago.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance party is on course to hold Cape Town and has pulled ahead in Port Elizabeth, with a close fight between the DA and the ANC in Pretoria and Johannesburg, AFP reported.
The ANC has won more than 60 percent of the vote at every election since the country’s first democratic vote in 1994 when Nelson Mandela became president.
Late Tuesday, the ANC recorded 54 percent of the vote, down from 62 percent in the 2011 municipal elections. The Democratic Alliance recorded 27 percent and the Economic Freedom Fighters, 7 percent, according to official results.
“We have shown some incredible growth,” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane told 702 radio, BBC reported. “We call this the change election because we felt that it was a referendum on Jacob Zuma as a national figure, but we also had a referendum about the future of South Africa.”
The count is seen as an indication of how the next general election could turn out, Al Jazeera reported.
The poll is a mid-term comment on the performance of President Jacob Zuma, who has been the subject of scandals since taking office in 2009, and has been plagued by the country’s economic crises.
A major collapse of ANC support could pressure Zuma, 74, to step down before his second term ends in 2019, Al Jazeera reported.
The faltering economy, rampant corruption and unemployment have eaten into the popularity of the ANC.
A record 26.3 million South Africans registered to vote for mayors and other local representatives to oversee water, sanitation and power supply — all political issues in South Africa.
The ANC still commands huge support across South Africa, BBC reported. But it can no longer take it for granted that the black majority will follow it. Its power and influence is in decline.
South Africa’s economy was one of the main issues for voters. Zero growth is expected this year, and unemployment is at 27 percent.
Almost daily protests have drawn attention to demands for better housing, jobs, amenities and electricity.
The final count is expected to be concluded Friday, AFP reported.