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South Africans vote in crucial parliamentary elections


Voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.

South Africans stood in long lines Wednesday to vote in a general election that could end the parliamentary majority of the African National Congress for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Nearly 28 million people were eligible to vote in national elections across South Africa’s nine provinces. Voters chose the parties that will decide the makeup of parliament, and those lawmakers elect South Africa’s next president.

“I have no doubt whatsoever, in my heart of hearts, that the people will once again invest confidence in the African National Congress to continue to lead this country,”
President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters as he cast his ballot Wednesday.

Watch related report by Kate Bartlett and Zaheer Cassim:

South Africans vote in most pivotal elections since apartheid
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But the main opposition leader John Steenhuisen had a different view.

“For the first time in 30 years, there is now a path to victory for the opposition,” he told The Associated Press.

“We now see there are more disillusioned people than there are people who are sure who they’re going to vote for,” political analyst Tessa Dooms told VOA. “This is going to be a bit of a referendum on whether people think their vote can do anything for change. It’s democracy that’s on the ballot in this election.”

A record 51 parties challenged the ANC in this year’s election.

"We will either become a more competitive and mature democracy, or our politics will become more fractured,” political analyst Richard Calland told the BBC.

Voters are frustrated with the ANC because they have not seen the changes they had expected after the party’s 30 years in power.

South Africa suffers from several deep-seated problems, chief among them an unemployment rate of 32%, one of the world’s highest. Persistent joblessness, along with crime, government corruption and regular electricity outages, have hurt the ANC politically.

Mihle Siguca, 21, said the country’s high unemployment rate is determining his vote.

“I feel like infrastructure and other things also need to be looked at ... education and what not. But unemployment, unemployment. ... It all boils down to unemployment,” he said.

Several voter opinion surveys indicate the party of President Nelson Mandela, which led a decadeslong effort to end South Africa’s repressive apartheid system of white-minority rule, has less than 50% support heading into the election.

If the ANC loses its parliamentary majority, it will have to make a deal with one or more of the smaller parties to maintain its hold on power.

The country’s Electoral Commission chief, Sy Mamabolo, told media that while he couldn’t give an official figure yet, it looked like turnout had surpassed the 66% of the 2019 election.

Official results are expected to be released Sunday.

VOA’s Kate Bartlett contributed to this report from South Africa. Some information came from The Associated Press.

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