Tue, Apr 21, 2009 - Page 6 News List

South Africa heads to the polls

NEW COMPETITOR The African National Congress faces a challenge from within its own ranks, the Congress of the People, but the Democratic Alliance is a bigger rival

THE GUARDIAN , NKANDLA, SOUTH AFRICA

Children rehearse a dance for a campaign rally for the African National Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

The South African national election tomorrow will be the country’s fourth democratic vote and the first to involve the “post-apartheid generation,” as the youngest South Africans eligible to vote were born after the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, after 27 years in prison.

More than 23 million people have registered to vote in what is being billed as the biggest election in the country’s history.

Campaigning has taken place in traditional rallies but also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) is certain of another victory but is fighting for every vote in a bid to retain its two-thirds majority, giving it the power to amend the Constitution.

For the first time, the ANC faces a challenge from within its own ranks — the breakaway party Congress of the People (Cope).

Cope was formed in response to “threats to constitutional order emerging from the ANC” and includes some anti-apartheid heroes.

But it is the Democratic Alliance that has the best chance of preventing an ANC clean sweep of all nine provinces.

Led by Helen Zille, the popular mayor of Cape Town, the alliance is tipped to snatch the Western Cape.

The country has a national assembly of 400 seats and national council of provinces with 90 seats.

Election to the national assembly is based on proportional representation, with half of the seats filled from regional party lists and the other half from national party lists. The party with the most seats installs its leader as president.

Crime, jobs, poverty, service delivery and political corruption are the dominant issues. Fifty murders a day take place in South Africa, with rape and robbery also shockingly high.

One in five of the workforce is unemployed, according to some estimates, a toll that rises much higher in the poor interior.

There is a small and expanding black middle class but a widening gap between rich and poor. Corruption is reported at all levels of government. Aids takes 1,000 lives a day.

Critics of the ANC argue that, like many liberation movements, it has struggled to make the transition to governing a multi-party democracy.

Some are disenchanted by promises not delivered, while millions of young voters have no memory of the struggle against apartheid. But the ANC still enjoys a halo effect from that era.

A poll by Ipsos Markinor suggests it will win a 65 percent majority. Race is still a factor: 79 percent of black voters will back the ANC, while the majority of the alliance’s supporters are white.

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