- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

From combined dispatches

CAPE TOWN, South Africa | South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has easily won a parliamentary majority and is soon expected to elect Jacob Zuma as the nation’s president.

Near-complete voting results released early Saturday show that the party won 66.03 percent of the votes cast, according to the Associated Press.

But it appears that the ANC might have fallen just short of its goal of winning a two-thirds majority - or at least 66.6 percent.

However, the final number of seats in the assembly is based on a complicated formula and has yet to be determined.

In any case, Mr. Zuma is expected to be elected president when the new assembly votes in May.

“The ANC has been given a clear and resounding mandate,” senior party official Matthews Phosa told thousands of cheering supporters at a victory party in Johannesburg, according to Reuters new agency.

“The ANC is going to rule this country for the next five years,” said Mr. Phosa, the party’s treasurer-general and a close ally of Mr. Zuma, in appealing for unity among all South Africans.

Despite the failure of a party of ANC dissidents to make a dramatic impact, the ANC had less than the nearly 70 percent of the vote it won in 2004 and appeared to have lost control of the Western Cape province, center of the tourist industry.

Zwelinzima Vavi, head of the national trade union movement and one of the ANC’s most influential figures, said the Western Cape result was “disappointing but not surprising.”

“The ANC [in the Western Cape] had been deeply hurt by infighting and factional battles that have run for five years,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

The rand currency firmed more than 2 percent against the dollar to a new 6 1/2-month high, aided by a strong euro, higher stocks and a smooth election.

A reinvigorated opposition had hoped to at least curb the majority to below two-thirds, but for many voters the ANC’s credentials from the fight against white-minority rule still outweigh its failure to decrease crime, poverty and AIDS.

The Congress of the People (COPE), formed by politicians who broke from the ruling party, won less than 7.5 percent of the vote.

The ANC’s closest rival was the Democratic Alliance (DA) with almost 16.2 percent. The DA, whose leader Helen Zille is white, pulled ahead of the ANC in the Western Cape province, which is currently controlled by the ANC.

Mr. Zuma, 67, will become president after managing to get prosecutors to drop an 8-year-old corruption case on a technicality. His supporters dismiss the accusations against him as politically motivated.

Some foreign investors fear trade union allies will push him to the left. The continent’s biggest economy may already be in recession for the first time in 17 years.

Mr. Zuma has repeatedly said there will be no nasty surprises in store for investors, and his room for policy maneuver is limited because of the global downturn. Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, a market favorite, is expected to stay for now.

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