Update on South Africa

Results from Wednesday’s South African election have been slow to come in. (See my preview here.) As of 8 o’clock this morning South African time (4pm in Melbourne), a day and a half after the polls closed, there are still only 76.2% of districts reporting [link fixed]

But on those figures there are no big surprises. The African National Congress again has a big lead with 57.3%, down 4.9% from 2014. The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, has 21.8% (down 0.5%), while the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters are up 3.7% to 10.1%.

The ANC has been improving at the expense to the Democratic Alliance throughout most of the count, so it’s likely that margin will widen by another point or so.

Only two other parties are tracking above one per cent: the centre-right Inkatha Freedom Party on 2.9% (up 0.5%) and the far-right Freedom Front Plus on 2.5%, a big jump from just 0.9% last time. The Christian Democrats are the best of the remainder with 0.9%.

At the provincial level, the Democratic Alliance has retained its majority in Western Cape despite losing ground, dropping from 59.4% to 54.7% of the vote. The ANC is well in the lead everywhere else, but in the two most populous provinces it is at some risk of losing its majority: Gauteng, where it has 50.6% with only 55.9% counted, and KwaZulu-Natal, where it’s sitting on 53.0% with 63.7% counted.

Most democratic parties would be pretty happy with 57% of the vote against a divided opposition, but in fact that’s a record low for the ANC – it’s never before fallen below 60%. It’s far from the resounding mandate that president Cyril Ramaphosa would have liked to take on some of the entrenched corruption on his own side.

Nonetheless, there’s a distinct shortage of alternatives. The Democratic Alliance has failed to make up ground and is still some way short of looking like a real alternative government, and the EFF, while on the rise, is still firmly in third place. For another five years the ANC has the game mostly to itself.

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