- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 26, 2009

PRETORIA, South Africa | South Africa’s long-dominant ANC party won overwhelmingly in parliamentary elections, but did not retain the two-thirds majority it took with ease in the last elections, according to the final tally announced Saturday.

The victory puts party leader Jacob Zuma in line for the presidency, but without the seats in the 400-member Parliament to enact major budgetary plans or legislation unchallenged.

A split in the African National Congress and questions about Mr. Zuma’s fitness to govern after sex and corruption scandals were contributing factors.

Mr. Zuma told reporters he was not disappointed to fall just short of two-thirds. “We have won a decisive majority,” he said.

Parliament elects South Africa’s president, and is expected to vote Mr. Zuma into office May 6.

Mr. Zuma was treated as president-elect Saturday, surrounded by photographers and well-wishers as he arrived to hear the final results announced, then appearing live on state television to deliver a 20-minute speech in which he promised his administration would speed up delivery of jobs, houses, school and clinics to the black majority that was denied so much under apartheid, and which has seen slow change since the ANC first took over in 1994.

He also offered his hand to rival parties.

“We may disagree on how to build a better life for all, but what unites us is the fact that this country belongs to all of us, black, white, colored, Indian, together.”

The ANC took 65.9 percent of the nearly 18 million votes cast Wednesday. It was allotted 264 seats, three short of two-thirds, and 33 fewer than it held in the last Parliament.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, received 67 seats, up from 47. The ANC breakaway Congress of the People party, known as COPE, got 30; it did not exist the last time South Africans voted. The Inkatha Freedom Party took 18 seats, down from 23. Nine other parties shared the remaining seats.

The seats were allotted by election officials according to a formula after the final count was certified.

The ANC won 69.69 percent of the vote in the last elections in 2004, when it was led by Mr. Zuma’s rival Thabo Mbeki.

Mr. Zuma faces a heavy responsibility - meeting expectations for change among South Africa’s impoverished black majority.

Some say Mr. Zuma is too beholden to unions and leftists and will not be able to fulfill his promises of creating jobs and a stronger social safety net. At the end of the campaign, Mr. Zuma was talking not about creating jobs, but staving off job losses.

The country’s racial divide still runs deep, as seen from results in the Western Cape province. Mixed-race voters, feeling marginalized after being treated better than blacks under apartheid’s racist rules, make up more than half of the Western Cape’s population and voted largely for the opposition Democratic Alliance.

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