Vote counting for South Africa’s municipal elections is in progress. The polls were seen as the country’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) stiffest local polls that are facing discontent over poor services and stark inequality 27 years after ending white minority rule.
Of the few ballots counted as of 0615 GMT on Tuesday, the ANC had around 46% of votes cast.
Voter turnout was not yet clear. A third of eligible voters did not register to cast their ballots, the Independent Electoral Commission said.
The local elections are critical for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his party.
The ANC’s reputation has been damaged by corruption scandals under former president Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa’s predecessor that hollowed out state coffers and deterred investment.
The ANC hopes to win back metropolitan areas it lost to opposition-led coalitions in 2016 with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling on many voters to support the party so it could improve.
“This is the one election where we are clearly saying to our people we are going to do better,” he said while voting in Soweto. “We’ve realised that we’ve not always met the aspirations of our people.”
Other parties include the Democratic Alliance (DA), ANC’s main rival that has struggled to shed its image as a party of white privilege, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – a Marxist group of former ANC youth leader Julius Malema – and ActionSA, DA
Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba’s party. Mashaba is branded a xenophobe because of his populist rhetoric against illegal immigrants.
More than 320 political parties contested in the Monday elections.
Getting less than half the national vote would be a psychological blow, and would raise the previously unthinkable possibility that the ANC could one day be in opposition.