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Official Campaigning Ends Ahead of South Africa’s Election Wednesday


Official campaigning ended Sunday ahead of South Africa's general election Wednesday after the ruling party and other opposition parties made last-ditch effort to woo voters. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) received a significant boost after former President Nelson Mandela made a surprise, unannounced appearance Sunday at the ANC's last rally. The opposition Congress of the People (COPE) said it was in the race to win and prevent the ANC from maintaining its two-thirds majority in parliament. Somadoda Fikeni is a political analyst. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that it is unclear whether any of the opposition parties could prevent the ANC from maintaining its two-thirds majority in parliament.

"I don't think ANC has conducted one of its most aggressive campaigning ever responding to the fears that it had internal divisions and internal strife that led to the breakaway COPE (Opposition Congress of the People). And as such it had 120 thousand people or more showing up in its final rally and that was beamed in the nine provinces where there was equally a higher attendance rate," Fikeni noted.

He said Sunday's ANC rally demonstrated the support the ruling party enjoys among ordinary South Africans.

"It does indicate and points to the ANC's continued dominance, which is well expected. The real question is whether it will retain its two-thirds majority or it would be reduced below that. But the question of it gaining majority to return to government is almost confirmed," he said.

Fikeni said it would be highly unlikely that any of the opposition parties would stand out and pose a significant threat to the ANC in Wednesday's election.

"Really what we could see is simply opposition party either retaining its share of the vote or simply taking over one province or presenting a strong opposition in other provinces. By providing a real alternative for the party that is expected to retain 60 percent or more in the election which means that the opposition would have to share the other 40 percent or less it means a one party dominated is still what we are going to see," Fikeni pointed out.

He said there are indications that opposition parties would fight to prevent the ANC from increasing or maintaining its two-thirds majority in parliament, which could allow the party to amend the constitution without input from the opposition.

"I do think that they are looking at reducing the ANC from getting 57.3 percent which is the two-thirds majority, which will allow it to change the constitution on its own. And secondly, they are also looking at winning a province or two, Western Cape being probable one where they could form a coalition in order to take it over using that as a foothold for future election contest. But beyond that there is very little that seems to be in the position of the opposition. They just have to step back in retrospect and critically reflect as to why they have not managed to take advantage of the ANC even when the ANC has its internal problems," he said.

Fikeni said it is uncertain that the ANC would want to single handedly amend the constitution if it wins over two-thirds majority in the upcoming election.

"Yes and no. Yes to the extent that the ANC had up to 70 percent of its majority in the past few years and it had never really alone gone out to change the constitution without consulting and without working with the opposition party, we don't expect a radical shift from that," Fikeni noted.

The ANC is expected to win the election due to the overwhelming support it apparently enjoys among ordinary South Africans. The party's last rally before Wednesday's election was broadcast live on state television, a treatment the much smaller opposition parties in South Africa don't receive. The Johannesburg event also was beamed to screens at other ANC rallies across the country.

Meanwhile, political icon and former President Mandela said Sunday that the ANC was best placed to lead South Africans in the party's primary task of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of a black majority neglected under apartheid. His presence at Sunday's rally was only his second during the entire campaign. Mandela retired from public life although no one has doubted his loyalty to the ANC. South Africans embrace him for defeating apartheid and building homes and creating jobs since first winning power in the first all-race vote in 1994.

Mandela served one term as the nation's president, from 1994 to 1999 shortly after he was released from jail after serving 27 and a half years. He handed over power to his chosen successor Thabo Mbeki to focus on fighting AIDS and supporting international peacemaking efforts.

The ANC came under intense criticism after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropped graft charges against the ruling party's presidential candidate Jacob Zuma. The opposition contends that the NPA caved in after enormous political pressure to drop the eight year old graft charges against Zuma. But the ANC sharply denies putting any pressure on the NPA.

Jacob Zuma has maintained his innocence, saying the dropping of the charges vindicated him. His supporters say the graft charges were politically motivated to prevent him from becoming South Africa's president.

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