South Africa


First rough brush strokes: the ANC can breathe a little easier, the FF+ jumps for joy & DA holds position

The IEC's national results centre in Pretoria as results start to trickle in on Thursday 9 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan

As the 8 May election results are trickling in from the 22,924 voting stations across South Africa, early indications are that the ANC can sigh a breath of relief with what looks a 56% polling support at national level. Several trends are emerging: the DA appears to flat-line a couple of percentage points above its 2014 showing, the Freedom Front Plus is gaining votes, while the political fortunes of some parties like Cope and the National Freedom Party (NFP) are sharply on the wane. But it’s early days, and it’s not over until it’s over.

The ANC is smiling, quietly and very discreetly, but definitely smiling as the numbers on the large tally board inch up – and how Gauteng, much touted to be within opposition grasp, actually wasn’t. The DA on the other side of the cavernous hall that is the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) national results centre in Tshwane seemed a bit more sombre. Number crunching on that side seemed to indicate not much of a better performance than in the 2014 elections when it held 23 seats.

The results tracking by Intellidex analyst Peter Attard Montalto, who’s teamed up with Daily Maverick, indicates at this stage the ANC would remain in charge of Gauteng, albeit with fewer seats in the provincial legislature, at this point down three from 40 seats it held since the 2014 poll.

But it’s early days. By 10 am just over 3,34-million votes were counted, mostly in dorpies, towns and suburbs. And it’s here one of the other potential key trends emerged: the fightback of the Freedom Front Plus, whose campaign motto seemed to be paying off. One of the FF+ party political representatives based at the IEC national results centre was confident, in many voting districts like Pretoria the party had boosted its performance from 5% to 25%, he said: “We have definitely two seats (in the National Assembly).” And on the back of voting numbers in Gauteng, the FF+ seems to be doubling its numbers in that provincial legislature, to two.

For one IFP MP, it was a shocker to see FF+ had logged up more votes than the IFP. “Yes, it will change as our votes come in. But, it’s shocking…” The count from KwaZulu-Natal seemed slow to come in – but IEC staff have been up and running since the early hours of Wednesday morning so voting stations could open at 7 am – but there was one key take away at this stage: the National Freedom Party (NFP) is heavily reduced at national level with the tally showing 0.16%. It’s not necessarily a surprise as the party has unravelled in the past two years; two of its MPs have joined other parties, the ANC and ATM, the African Transformation Movement

Across the provinces, the IEC national results centre tally board reflects similar trends: the ANC in the lead by about three times the next nearest party, the DA. The closest run is in the Northern Cape where the ANC: DA vote count ratio was half, or around 167,000 to 83,000 by mid-morning. It’s been a solid ANC province in the past, but the DA has quietly taken over from Cope as the official opposition in 2014 and worked. It seems to be paying off.

The Western Cape is sticking out from this overall trend. As votes were coming in, it was the DA that led, and the ANC that followed by about half the number of votes. For the ANC to be at this point, however, has been a bit of surprise. As its election boss, former ambassador Ebrahim Rasool keeps on saying as he recently did to Daily Maverick: “If you had told me a year ago we would be at 38%, I would have laughed… That we are here (at 38%) is already a major step forward for the ANC.”

In the 2014 elections, the ANC clinched 14 provincial legislature seats on the back of 32.89% polling support. The DA had scored just over 59%.

Around 11 am, the IEC official national results showed the ANC at 55.05%, the DA at 25.6%, the FF+ 3,11%, the IFP at 1.7% and the EFF at 8.63%.

A large number of the 48 political parties that paid their deposit to contest the 2019 elections simply do not feature, having clogged up some 900 votes as had Women Forward. If fortunes hold, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) may just scrape back into the National Assembly to retain its one seat.

As the tale of what has been the most contested election unfolds, it appears the contest was mostly in the minds of the politicians – voter turn-out at this stage hovers around 70%, down three percentage points from 2014.

IEC officials were locked in meetings on Thursday morning, and a briefing on the vote count was postponed to 2 pm. DM


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