South Africa’s ruling ANC leader Jacob Zuma has called for a massive turnout at an election on Wednesday to give his ruling party a decisive mandate in its toughest test since the end of apartheid.
Zuma is widely expected to become president after the ballot, but the African National Congress risks losing the two-thirds majority in parliament it needs to change the constitution.
A big turnout could strengthen Zuma’s mandate in the face of the challenge from a new opposition party, COPE (Congress of the People) formed by ANC dissidents and after corruption charges against him that were dropped on a technicality.
Zuma appealed to South Africans to vote in large numbers and to give the ruling party an overwhelming majority.
“We anticipate a massive turnout and we expect that the people of this country will once again give the ANC a huge and decisive mandate to work together with them to further improve their lives,” he is reported to have said today at his last news conference before the vote.
Opposition parties hope to capitalise on growing frustration with poverty, crime and AIDS as well as doubts over corruption. According to analysts, ANC’s support base is expected to fall from 70% to 60%.
But the ANC has superior organisation and the credentials of being the party that ended white-minority rule in 1994.