2019 National Elections: what to watch for as counting continues

Final results from South Africa’s sixth post-apartheid national and provincial elections, largely a three-horse race between the ruling African National Congress, center-right Democratic Alliance and radical Economic Freedom Fighters, are set to be released by May 11.

Results of the ballot counting at 22,924 polling stations will be posted at the buildings and scanned onto the Independent Electoral Commission’s computer system. Then they’ll be audited before being transmitted to national and provincial centers that collate and publish. Early results aren’t always an accurate indicator of the final outcome because tallies from urban areas, some of which are opposition strongholds, tend to come in first.

Here’s what to watch for as the results come in:

1. The turnout

A low turnout among the 26.7 million registered voters could favor the DA, which has historically had a good track record in getting its backers to cast their ballots. There was a 73% turnout in the last national election in 2014, down from 77% five years earlier.

2. The urban vote

The ANC bled support in several cities in a 2016 municipal vote, largely due to public disgruntlement with then-President Jacob Zuma, but the party retained its dominance in most rural areas. A strong showing by the ANC in the urban centers would indicate that it’s turned itself around in the eyes of the electorate since Cyril Ramaphosa took over the helm of the party in December 2017 and the presidency two months later.

3. The battle for Gauteng

Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, the largest city and economic hub, and Pretoria, the capital, has been one of the key election battlegrounds. The ANC’s share of the vote in the region plummeted to 54% in 2014, from 64% five years earlier, and it lost control of Johannesburg and Pretoria to DA-led opposition coalitions in the 2016 municipal vote. Should the ANC lose its outright majority in Gauteng – a scenario opinion polls indicate is possible — it would be forced to seek alliances with its smaller rivals to retain a hold on the province.

4. The Western Cape contest

The DA has governed the Western Cape province since 2009, when it won 52% of that vote. While it extended its majority to 59% in 2014, the party suffered a setback when its leadership clashed with Patricia de Lille, the former mayor of Cape Town, and she broke away to form the Good party. The ANC has also campaigned hard in the province, the only one it doesn’t control, and some opinion polls show support for the DA could fall below the 50% mark in the region.

5. The performance of the Economic Freedom Fighters

The EFF was founded in 2013 by Julius Malema, a former ANC youth leader who was expelled from the ruling party after he criticized Zuma and the party’s policies. Less than a year later, the EFF won 6% of the national vote, making it the third-largest party, as its calls to nationalize mines, banks and land resonated with unemployed township residents. Its gains continued in the 2016 municipal elections when it garnered 8% of the vote, and some opinion polls project it may win as much as 14% this time around.

A strong showing by the EFF could embolden an ANC faction that also favors populist policies and make it harder for Ramaphosa to implement promised reforms aimed an fostering growth and investment.

Read: Why the ANC’s win margin is extremely important


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2019 National Elections: what to watch for as counting continues