South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) won re-election Friday but with diminished support.
As of late evening, the party had garnered 57.68% of the vote with 98.19% of the ballots counted.
It was followed by the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party with 20.70% and the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party with 10.63%.
Forty-eight political parties contested in Wednesday’s national and provincial elections.
This marks the first time the ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994, has obtained less than 60% of the vote.
Experts say the ANC lost ground due to several incidents of alleged corruption involving some of its leaders, including former President Jacob Zuma.
The party was also accused of failing to effectively deliver community services in parts of the country while unemployment also rose.
Some experts believe the ANC would have even lost more support if it were not for former trade unionist and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected last year to replace the scandal-tainted Zuma as president.
Many people reportedly voted for the ANC because of Ramaphosa’s pledge to fight corruption, renew the party and rejuvenate the economy — an opposite of his predecessor.
By press time, the ANC had also won seven of the nine provincial legislatures.
The Democratic Alliance won in the Western Cape province, which it will govern, while Gauteng province, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, was still hanging in the balance as the final votes were being tallied.
Earlier Friday, some 35 political parties rejected the initial results being released by the Independent Electoral Commission, alleging the polls were not free and fair. The parties claimed that some people voted more than once while the “indelible ink” put on a voter’s thumb could be easily washed off.
But election observers said at a media briefing Friday evening that the elections were held in a free and fair manner.
Former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who is leading an African Union observer mission in the country, said a few hitches cannot be used to claim the entire polls were not free and fair.
Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is also observing the elections in South Africa, said the process was credible.
“We did not observe double voting or see anyone who was removing the indelible ink.”