Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress party (ANC) will be returned to government in South Africa, with early election results indicating a majority between 63 and 58 percent of the vote.
A strong urban turnout benefited the centrist Democratic Alliance. Their vote grew from 17 percent in 2009 to 24 percent, cementing their position as the largest opposition party.
The ANC’s majority, while strong by global standards, represents the second consecutive drop in their electoral margin. They had 70 percent in 2004 and 66 percent in the 2009 election.
Despite this reduction the ANC’s electoral margin is being hailed by the ANC and many commentators, from business and corporate press, as a win over the left opposition.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party came in third with between 4 percent and 5 percent of the vote, garnering it 14 seats in South Africa’s parliament, which works on the basis of proportional representation.
Some predicted the EFF would garner as much as 8 percent of the vote, riding a wave of populist discontent that has plagued Zuma’s presidency.
Public anger spilled over during Zuma’s tenure with popular uprisings protesting poverty and unemployment and strikes over low wages and bad conditions, most famously at the Marikana mine – at least 34 striking workers were killed by police. Anger heightened with revelations of corruption, including the use of $23 million of taxpayers' money on renovations of the president’s private home.
Despite its status as a distant third, the EFF has featured highly in the international press. The party formed last year by the former head of the ANC’s youth league, Julius Malema. Its leadership is composed largely of former ANC members who rejected the rightward shift of the once avowedly socialist party. They promised to redistribute wealth, protect workers, and tackle the endemic poverty that still grips most of the country. Many had speculated that it could offer a parliamentary outlet for the increasingly restive working class and leftist factions of South African society.
As the results, including the EFF’s relatively weak showing, came in an ANC party spokesperson said that that the ANC’s win represents "an overwhelming mandate". Analysts speculated they would use this “mandate” to push a pro-business agenda.
At the 1955 Congress of the People, the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter as its guiding document. The charter included the provision of services to the poor, the nationalization of mines and major industries, and many other leftist economic goals, alongside an end to apartheid. The party also originally fostered strong relationships with leftist countries in Latin America, especially Cuba, with President’s Mandela and Castro maintaining a close personal friendship.
By the time the end of apartheid was negotiated, however, much of this leftist policy was abandoned.