The African National Congress was set to easily win the election on Saturday but with a lower vote share reflecting anger at corruption scandals and racial inequalities that remain entrenched a generation after the party took power.
With 99.9% of voting districts counted following Wednesday’s election, the ANC led with 57.5% of the vote. The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) was on 20.79% and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had 10.78%
It would be the worst electoral performance by the late Nelson Mandela’s former liberation movement, which has governed South Africa uninterrupted since the country’s first free election marked the end of white minority rule in 1994.
The ANC’s victory will secure it enough seats in parliament to give President Cyril Ramaphosa another five years in office but may leave him short of ammunition to battle party rivals who oppose his reforms to galvanise the economy and counter graft.
The ANC had not previously won less than 60% of the vote in a national election. Two results are still to come from nine provincial polls also held on Wednesday.
Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as president in 2018, had sought to re-engage ANC voters whose support was eroded by faltering efforts to address corruption, unemployment and disparities in housing, land and services.