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When can election results be expected?

South Africans vote on Wednesday, 29 May in what may be the most consequential election in decades, as dissatisfaction with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) threatens to end its 30-year political dominance.

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Polls opened at 07:00 and will close at 21:00 with 27.7 million registered voters called to elect a new parliament, which then chooses a president.

For the first time since the advent of democracy in 1994, the ANC is at risk of losing its outright majority and could be forced to negotiate a coalition.

ANC could win as little as 40% of the vote

But many in the country of 62 million are fed up with high unemployment, currently at 32.9 percent, rampant crime, corruption scandals, and regular power cuts and water shortages.

The economy grew a meagre 0.6% in 2023.

Polls suggest the ANC could win as little as 40% of the vote, down from 57% in 2019.

Under South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution, MPs are elected on a party list system, and the executive president is chosen from among their number by the Cape Town-based parliament.

If the ANC has fewer than 201 seats, President Cyril Ramaphosa would have to negotiate with opposition parties and independent MPs to secure a majority and return to government headquarters in Pretoria.

It could face stark choices.

On the right, it is beset by the Democratic Alliance (DA), which has vowed to “Rescue South Africa” by rolling back the ANC’s race-based economic empowerment programmes and to boost growth through privatisation and deregulation.

Polls put it at below 25%.

On the left, it is bleeding support to former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party and Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which favour radical reforms like land redistribution and the nationalisation of key economic sectors.

Polls estimate the two parties are tied at around 10 percent.

Low turnout may favour ruling party

Turnout could prove key, with some models suggesting a low participation might favour the ruling party.

Voter interest has progressively shrunk every five years, since hitting a high of 89% in 1999.

Turnout at the last elections in 2019 was 66%.

South Africans will vote also for provincial legislatures. 

Full results are not expected before the weekend.

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