JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The ruling African National Congress is coasting to a comfortable lead in South Africa’s presidential and parliamentary elections with 83% of the vote counted, but the tally shows the party getting less support than five years ago amid deep anger over government corruption.
The ANC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, had 57% of Wednesday’s vote, according to results announced Friday by the electoral commission. That was a dip from the 62% of the total vote it won in 2014.
The ANC’s lead, despite its reduced margin, is seen by many as a mandate for Ramaphosa to keep trying to clean up corruption in the party that once inspired the country under Nelson Mandela but has seen a recent leader, former President Jacob Zuma, resign last year amid numerous corruption allegations.
“It’s now up to Ramaphosa to clean up the ANC, to stop the looting in government,” said commentator Barney Mthombothi. “He can argue that the ANC lost its share of the vote because of the rampant corruption under the previous Zuma leadership.”
In the campaign, Ramaphosa acknowledged the problem of graft in the party, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid 25 years ago. He vowed not to have any corrupt members in his Cabinet.
“After he voted in Soweto, Ramaphosa pledged to root out corruption,” said Mthombothi. “He will have to deliver decisively on those words.”
On Friday, 35 smaller parties jointly lodged a complaint with South Africa’s electoral commission, complaining of irregularities and calling for an audit of the vote and a possible rerun of the election.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance received 21% of the vote so far, slightly less than what it got in the last election.
“Even though we’ve lost a few votes, we’ve held the center of South Africa politics,” Mmusi Maimane, the DA party leader, said Friday at the electoral commission’s results center in Pretoria. “We will work to regain those votes because we are the party for all South Africans of whatever race.”
The populist, left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters increased its share of the vote from 6% to 10%.
Voter apathy also has been a factor, as turnout dipped to 65% from 74% in 2014.
In South Africa, the president and parliament are not elected directly. The number of votes won by each party determines how many representatives are sent to the national 400-seat legislature. The president of the country is the leader of the party that gets the most votes.
Results from South Africa’s more remote areas are expected to trickle in, and electoral officials say final results may not be announced until Saturday.
By ANDREW MELDRUM Associated Press