By Mark Waller in South Africa
South Africa’s fifth democratic national and provincial elections since 1994, and the end of white minority rule, sees the ruling African National Congress (ANC) retain power with another landslide victory.
This gives it a strong mandate to continue the policies pursued by the administration led by President Jacob Zuma since he was first elected president in 2009.
This year, the ANC lost a few percentage points, winning 62.2% of votes. It now has 249 seats in the National Assembly, down from 264.
In 2009, shortly after Mr Zuma was elected ANC leader, the party won with 65.9% of votes.
In 1994, when Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president, it swept the polls with a 62.6% win. The next two elections saw its margin increase to 66.3% in 1999, and 66.7% in 2004.
The centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) has steadily gained ground as the official opposition party, rising in the elections from 12.4% of votes in 2004, to 16.7% in 2009. It has now surged, winning 22.2% of votes.
The DA, which champions more market-driven policies and less state intervention in the economy than the ANC, now has 89 seats in the National Assembly, up from 67.
The biggest change in the party political terrain has been the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has won 6.2% of votes and will have 25 seats in the National Assembly.
The party is led by former ANC Youth League president, Julius Malema, who was expelled from both the ANC and ANCYL in 2012, and faces fraud, racketeering and tax evasion charges.
The EFF has won 6.2% of votes and will have 25 MPs in South Africa’s new National Assembly.
The other small parties have been roundly thrashed. The inauspiciously-named COPE (Congress of the People), which split from the ANC following the removal of President Thabo Mbeki in 2008, and wider changes to the ANC leadership the year before, won fewer than one per cent of votes. This is down from 7.4% in 2009.
Similarly, the once-powerful Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), whose stronghold is in KwaZulu Natal, won only 2.4% of votes, down from 4.5% in 2009, and way down from the 10.5% of votes it won in 1994. It will have 10 MPs in the National Assembly.
The IFP has long been the powerbase of the one-time Prime Minister of the KwaZulu bantustan, Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
The apartheid government promoted the IFP as a violent buffer against the ANC in the dying days of minority rule. Its steady demise reflects the unwinding of its historic standoff with the ANC.
The Afrikaner conservative political base, the Freedom Front Plus, has also steadily waned since 1994. Then it won just 2.1% of votes, but now only managed 0.9%, giving it four seats in the National Assembly.
Most domestic media comment sees the results as further evidence of the steady decline in the ANC’s fortunes, due to corruption scandals, lack of leadership and policy indecision.
Raging controversy over the amount of state spending on security upgrades to President Zuma’s home in Nkandla has tended to obscure the government’s policy impact.
It is this impact, rather than blind loyalty, that emerged in the countless vox pops and community debates broadcast mainly on local media before the election as uppermost in people’s concerns.
In part two of our coverage of the South African election, published on Wales World Wide later this week, Mark Waller looks at the implications of the elections for economic and social policy.
For Welsh businesses interested in building international trading links with South Africa, visit our events calendar for information about the Welsh Government’s trade mission to Johannesburg and Durban this June.