South Africa’s election triumph

25 April 2009

South Africa and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) were the big winners in the country’s 2009 general elections, which were marred only by a few logistical glitches as voters turned out peacefully, in huge numbers, to return the ANC to Parliament with an overwhelming majority.

ANC dominant

The ANC received 65.9% of the 17.6-million valid votes cast, securing 264 of the 400 seats in South Africa’s National Assembly, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 16.6% of the vote (67 seats in Parliament) and the recently established Congress of the People (Cope) with 7.4% (30 seats).

The Inkatha Freedom Party secured 18 seats in Parliament, while the United Democratic Movement, Freedom Front Plus and Independent Democrats secured four seats each.

The African Christian Democratic Party got three seats in Parliament, the United Christian Democratic Party got two, and the Azanian People’s Organisation, Azanian People’s Convention, Minority Front and Pan Africanist Congress of Azania got one seat each.

In the provincial elections, the ANC won with outright majorities in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, where the Inkatha Freedom Party saw its share of the vote fall to 22% compared to the ANC’s 64%.

The exception was the Western Cape, where Helen Zille’s DA received 52% of the vote, followed by the ANC with 33% and Cope with 7%.

‘Atmosphere of 1994’

Barring one minor incident in Ulundi, KwaZulu-Natal, the election went off without violence or intimidation.

“There was characteristic good humour and patience as voters put behind them months of acrimony and foreboding about the country’s political future,” Business Day reported on Thursday.

“In spirit and atmosphere, it was a day reminiscent of April 27 1994, and augured well for the new era under president-to-be Jacob Zuma, who will be inaugurated on May 9.”

Huge turnout

According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), 77.3% of South Africa’s 23.18-million registered voters cast their ballots in Wednesday’s poll – one of the highest voter turnouts in the world.

The huge turnout caused long queues and a shortage of voting material at some voting stations, which saw presiding officers scrambling to supply voting material where it was needed. All stations closed at 9pm, although voters who were already in the queue at that time were allowed to vote.

Oranto Atombo, one of around 330 international observers in the country for the elections, said voters’ determination to stand in long queues to make their mark demonstrated “how serious South Africans are about their hard-earned democracy”.

‘Free, fair, transparent and credible’

South Africa’s election had been conducted “in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner,” an African Union (AU) observer mission said on Friday.

The vibrancy of the electorate had “done honour not only to the people of South Africa but to Africa as a whole,” said the mission’s leader, Salim Ahmed Salim.

The mission also commended South Africa for an inclusive voting process that included “special arrangement for the disabled and the aged to exercise their right to vote as well as the participation of those South Africans who had registered to vote but were abroad on the day of the election.”

Logistical issues

Although there were some logistical and irregular issues in the running of the elections, they had not affected the electoral process adversely, the AU found.

Commenting on the arrest of an IEC official on charges of fraud in KwaZulu-Natal, Salim said such behaviour was “unacceptable”.

A presiding officer at a voting station in Ulundi allegedly stuffed a ballot box with pre-marked ballot papers. The official, who was charged with violating the Electoral Act, has appeared in court and was granted bail.

The AU mission also recommended that the IEC and the government revisit a provision in the law that allows voters to vote at any voting station, not just the one at which they originally registered. This provision was widely blamed for the shortage of ballot papers and ballot boxes at some voting stations.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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