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ANC Wins Decisive Victory in South African General Election - 2004-04-16

With more than 96 percent of the results in from South Africa's third democratic general election, the African National Congress is celebrating its largest victory ever. The party has won more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament, giving it the power to amend the constitution. But President Thabo Mbeki says his party has no intention of doing that.

The African National Congress, or ANC, has won its most decisive victory since coming to power a decade ago. The party took nearly 70 percent of the votes nationwide, giving it more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament.

Speaking to reporters at election headquarters in Pretoria, President Mbeki said the landslide victory reflects the will of the people. But he said the result also challenges his party not to disappoint those who voted for them.

"Really, what I'd like to say today ? is thank you very much to the people of South Africa for the confidence that they have shown in the ANC," he said. "And the ANC has a duty, an absolute duty, to make sure that it does all of these things that it committed itself to do."

Ten years after the end of apartheid, South Africa remains plagued by poverty, unemployment, AIDS and crime. But analysts say the outpouring of support for the ruling party shows that most voters still trust the ANC to deliver on its campaign promise to create a better life for all.

With two-thirds of the seats in parliament, the ANC will have the power to amend the constitution, without the cooperation of any other parties. But President Mbeki says his party has no plans to do that.

"It's the opposition parties that want constitutional changes, not the ANC," he said. "So, there is no idea whatsoever, of any kind, of bringing about any constitutional changes. The matter of a decisive victory majority had to do with making sure that the government has the necessary strength and support to get the people to act together with government to face these major challenges ahead of us."

Analysts point out that the ANC has already had a de facto two-thirds majority in parliament, even though it failed to cross the magical two-thirds mark in the last election, because of defections from other parties.

Mr. Mbeki says all the African National Congress wanted in this poll was a strong enough majority to implement its policies.

"And it has been our view, it remains our view, that the stronger, the more popular, the more broad-based that government is, the better it is, to unite the people of South Africa, to change this country for the better," he stressed.

In addition to the national parliament, voters on Wednesday also elected members of provincial legislatures. The ANC retained outright control of seven out of the nine provinces, and will probably run an eighth province in coalition with another party. It is still not clear what will happen in the ninth province, KwaZulu-Natal, where neither the ANC nor its main rival won 50 percent of the vote, and no coalition agreement has yet been worked out.

The 400 members of parliament will meet next week to re-elect Mr. Mbeki as president. He will be inaugurated for his second term on April 27, as South Africa celebrates the 10th anniversary of its first democratic elections.