ANC drops below 57% with 68% of votes counted

South Africans vote in general election; sixth poll since 1994

South Africa election: President Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC faces toughest challenge, 25 years after end of...

South Africans voting in a national election on Wednesday expressed frustration at rampant corruption, high unemployment and racial inequalities that persist 25 years after the first all-races poll marked the end of white minority rule.

The party, which appeals mainly to young voters and the poor, has campaigned on its policy of seizing land from largely white owners to give to poor blacks.

The African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994, held a very comfortable lead with almost 57 percent after four-fifths of voting districts were officially tallied following Wednesday's vote.

Votes are being counted with results expected in the coming days after South Africans voted Wednesday in what's being seen as a referendum on the party that's governed the country for 25 years, since apartheid ended.

ANA|The African National Congress (ANC) has a fight on its hands in the key provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal where by late Thursday night it held a slim majority in each.

The party has been tarnished by widespread corruption scandals and a national unemployment rate of 27 per cent that has discouraged many voters.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took over from scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as ANC leader in 2017, told supporters on Sunday that the party would punish members guilty of stealing public money. "There is some arrogance which has crept in", said voter Mandla Booi, 45, in Port Elizabeth on the south coast.

Under South Africa's electoral system, citizens do not vote directly for president; however a vote for the ANC is essentially a vote for Ramaphosa.

South Africa's political landscape has shifted only slightly with these elections, the governing ANC slipping from 62 percent to 57 percent nationally.

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The AU on Friday acknowledged the South African general elections as "peaceful, transparent, inclusive and credible".

The ANC has criticized the EFF proposal, but it has supported a plan to amend the constitution to authorize the seizure of land without compensation in some circumstances.

"We all know that the ANC is going to win the elections so I do not think mine will make any difference", said Rammoko, who sells tires in the eastern suburb of Kempton Park.

The radical leftist EFF, founded six years ago by former ANC youth leader Julius Malema, is predicted to make major gains, growing from 6.3 percent to a forecast 11 percent.

Nelson Mandela's former liberation party has not won less than a 60 per cent share of the vote since it came to power. The number of votes won by each party determines how many representatives are sent to the national 400-seat legislature.

President Ramaphosa came to power past year pledging to get to grips with the issue but some voters still associate the party with the corruption which thrived under Mr Zuma.

Preliminary results will emerge on Thursday, with an official victor declared on Saturday.

That means they will be mathematically assured more than 50 percent of votes cast in the final official tally, due to be announced Saturday.

The fringe party surprised many casual observers by surging into fourth place in early counts, eclipsing its one-percent take in the 2014 election, though its take remains in the single digits.

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