In South Africa, ruling African National Congress poised for election win but with decreased support

The party that Nelson Mandela led to victory a quarter century ago will likely be victorious again, leaving incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa to set his agenda

A gathering of representatives of smaller parties take to the stage to protest their claim that the elections were not free or fair, at the Independent Electoral Commission Results Center in Pretoria, South Africa. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

The African National Congress — the party of late South African President Nelson Mandela — seemed to be headed for election victory on Friday, although it was on course to become the organization’s worst ever performance, Reuters is reporting.

South Africans began casting their votes in the election earlier this week. The ruling ANC was expected to be victorious and keep incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa in office. The nation does not elect their presidents directly but rather parliamentary, meaning they vote parties into their legislature and leader of the party with the most votes takes the position.

READ MORE: South Africa’s ruling ANC holds strong lead in national vote

As of early Friday afternoon, the ANC held a commanding lead, taking 57.4 percent of the vote with 90 percent of voting districts counted. The ANC’s main opposition is the Democratic Alliance, which held 21.01 percent of the vote, according to Reuters.

Since Mandela led the party into power in 1994, the ANC has never taken less than 60 percent of the vote in an election, Reuters reported.

Many voters told reporters they’ve been frustrated with the ANC over the years, citing corruption, continued widespread unemployment and racial disparities, even after the end of apartheid.

The ANC put a positive spin on the results as they came in.

“People have shown they are willing to forgive the ANC,” Ronald Lamola, a member of the party’s top governing body, told Reuters.

“We are looking at a clear mandate for our policies,” he said.

READ MORE: South Africa president Cyril Ramaphosa promises “new dawn”

Racial disparities in land ownership, housing and services remain in South Africa even after reforms.

“The ANC will be elected with a record low of 27 percent of the eligible population backing them, compared with 47 percent in 1999,” Peter Attard Montaldo, chief of capital markets research at the Intellidex research and consulting firm, told Reuters. “This kind of mandate is not a mandate nor an impetus to change,” he said.

Ramaphosa, who took over the presidency after the resignation of Jacob Zuma in February 2018, has been credited with bringing the ANC back from the brink.

“It’s a good election for Ramaphosa as he does get a mandate,” fund manager Carl Vermassen told Reuters. “A lot of people were afraid he would poll 54 percent or even below that and we would get a political struggle within ANC. I don’t think that will happen.”

READ MORE: South Africa to amend constitution to begin redistribution of land to Black owners

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