News analysis: South Africa's ruling party set to win elections despite setbacks   2014-05-09 06:10:40            

News analysis: South Africa's ruling party set to win elections despite setbacks

By Martin Williams

JOHANNESBURG, May 8 (Xinhua) -- With a small percentage of votes in South Africa's fifth democratic general election still to be counted, analysts agreed that the country's ruling African National Congress (ANC) had won with a decisive majority.

South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) predicted the ANC would win 63.3 percent of the votes and the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) 22 percent. In the previous election in 2009, the ANC won 65.9 percent and the DA 16.66 percent.

This time, in South Africa's most competitive election in the 20 years since the fall of apartheid, the newly formed Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) was lying third with five percent of the vote.

Analysts attributed the ANC's continued success to its role in liberating South Africans from apartheid and its record in improving the living conditions of millions.

There had been predictions that the ANC would be adversely affected by problems within in its governing alliance partner, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu). Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, said the vaunted organizing power of Cosatu with its 2 million members had proved to be "not so important after all." The ANC had succeeded without Cosatu organizers.

In December, Cosatu's biggest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), said it would not support or campaign for ANC in the elections. Another handicap which had been predicted for the ANC was the pulling power of the EFF, which was established by former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema after he was expelled by the ruling party.

Negative reports about the expenditure of state money on President Zuma's private homestead at Nkandla in a rural part of South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province were also expected to have an adverse effect on the ANC's electoral chances.

However, as the combination of all these factors cost the ANC less than three percent at the polls, the ANC will feel emboldened to continue with its current policies.

In particular, the National Development Plan (NDP), adopted at the party's national conference in December 2012, is expected to receive more prominence. The NDP had been criticized by the ANC's unionist allies and opponents on the left as being too pro- capitalist. Numsa, for example, has been a fierce critic of the plan.

In its election manifesto, the ANC said it would use the NDP to eradicate poverty, increase employment and reduce inequality by 2030. In the build-up to the May 7 election, Zuma said the NDP sets South Africa's economic agenda over the next 20 years.

"Its implementation will be a people-driven process to which everyone is able to contribute. Where appropriate, the plan will be adapted to meet changing conditions and incorporate key learnings," he said.

The relatively poor showing of the EFF, which has a radical economic agenda contrary to the NDP, means the ANC will not feel any electoral need to radicalize its own policies.

However, in the build-up to the election, some ANC spokesmen presented the NDP as if it was a radical document. For example, South Africa's Minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba said the country was braced for "radical socioeconomic transformation" which would make the economy "a more labor-absorbing one that is characterized by deracialized and widespread ownership."

Regarding the electoral performance of the official opposition DA, which at one stage expected to get 30 percent of the South African vote, Friedman said the polls indicated the DA had yet to make a big breakthrough among black voters.

Richard Calland, law professor at the University of Cape Town, said the results suggested the DA would not be able to make its predicted push for national power in South Africa's 2019 election.

However, another South African commentator, Paul Pereira, told the country's PowerFm radio station, "it's already clear that the DA has more black votes than all the country's other opposition parties combined."

The DA claims to be South Africa's most racially diverse party.

The ruling ANC was set to win eight of South Africa's nine provinces, while the DA retained the Western Cape Province. According to political commentator Gareth van Onselen on Johannesburg's Business Day newspaper, the DA spent 100 million rands (10 million U.S. dollars) trying to win the populous Gauteng province, which is South Africa's economic heartland. However, at the time of writing, that victory seemed unlikely. While the ANC had 52 percent of that provincial vote, the DA had 33 percent.

South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission said 25.3 million people had been registered to vote on May 7. This represents 80.5 percent of the 31.4 million South Africans eligible to vote. The country has a population of 52 million.

In South Africa's 2009 elections, 7 million people eligible to vote did not register, while about 5.4 million did register but did not vote. Enditem

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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