South Africans will vote on Wednesday to elect a new National Assembly and legislatures in each of the country’s nine provinces. These will be the sixth democratic general elections in South Africa in the 25 years since the end of apartheid in 1994. The result of the elections will determine who will become the country’s next President.
* African National Congress (ANC), the party of South Africa’s historic struggle to overthrow apartheid, has won every election since 1994, when Nelson Mandela became President. Mandela was succeeded by ANC leaders Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, and the incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa, with Kgalema Motlanthe serving at the post for a few months between the tenures of Mbeki and Zuma. While Ramaphosa is widely expected to return as President, the ANC, which has always polled between 60% and 70% of the vote, could see its support sliding to a historic low of under 50%
* Democratic Alliance (DA), is the main opposition party. Its leader Mmusi Maimane, 38, an electrifying speaker and energetic campaigner, has been Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly since 2014. Maimane is seen as being the cleanest of the three politicians in the race to be President.
* The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is a far Left party founded by Julius Malema in 2013, the year after he was expelled from the ANC. After the elections of 2014, the EFF became the third-largest party in the National Assembly. Malema is an agenda-setter in many ways; he is also seen as being a “reckless populist”, and has been accused of several kinds of fraud and economic crimes in the past.
Issues in the poll
The rampant corruption during the years of ANC rule, which has caused deep disillusionment among voters and given the DA and EFF hope and campaign issues, dominates the election. South Africa’s official unemployment rate is 27.1%, and more than six million people out of a population of 58 million are without jobs. Former President Zuma faces 16 charges around an international arms deal that was negotiated in 1998, and a public inquiry is under way into the role of the Indian-origin business family of the Guptas, who are accused of “capturing” several major state enterprises during Zuma’s presidency.
Results of election
Both the 400-seat National Assembly and the 30-80 seat provincial Assemblies are elected by a system of ‘closed list’ proportional representation. The President is elected by the members of the National Assembly. The Independent Electoral Commission has up to seven days after the vote to declare the results but it has, in the past, announced results within three days.