Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN)Despite years of corruption allegations, a sluggish economy and sustained electricity blackouts, South Africa’s ruling ANC looks set to win a substantial majority in a critical national election.
While the ruling party looks set to maintain its grip on power for the next five years, the results show that voter support for the ANC — the party of Nelson Mandela — which has ruled since the fall of apartheid in the mid-1990s, is dwindling. The falling support means that it will be harder for the weakened party to enact its agenda — including bolstering the flagging economy.
The party looks set to dip below the psychological barrier of 60% support — since the end of apartheid regime in 1994, the ANC’s share of votes in national elections has never fallen below 60%, according to the commission.
In the previous election, in 2014, the ANC won with 62% of voter support. The election year before that — 2009 — the party won 66% of the vote. In 2004, it got close to 70% of the vote.
The partial results show the main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), trailing with just under 22% of the vote — at this stage, their support looks to remain flat — a disappointment result for the official opposition.
The election has not been without its hitches. The commission on Thursday said that several people have been arrested for attempting to vote twice. The commission said they would hold a random audit of certain polling stations to gauge the problem.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, speaking to the press Thursday, asked for a “full audit” of the vote, claiming some voter fraud.
“We have concerns about the electoral process and how some of the issues have been handled; I’m concerned that many South Africans were able to vote twice and therefore our call for an audit is still an important one because we think that needs to be interrogated.”
He said he didn’t support a re-run of the vote “at this stage.”
Official results are expected Saturday.
Voters went to the polls at almost 23,000 polling stations across the country on Wednesday, with ANC leader President Cyril Ramaphosa promising to crack down on corruption in the party, following years of graft scandals associated with his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s time in office.
But the ANC faces widespread apathy among voters born after apartheid, known as the “born-free” generation, with millions who failed even to register to vote.
The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) leader Julius Malema, a charismatic leftist candidate who pledged to accelerate land appropriation as a tool to redress widespread inequality, was able to capitalize on anger generated by daily headlines alleging corruption in the highest echelons of power.
The EFF are currently running third, with just over 10% of the vote.
But for many voters, disillusion with the political system can be traced to the continued inequality that South Africans face, despite the country being one of the richest on the African continent.
Despite 25 years of equal rights under the law, a recent World Bank survey showed that the country is the most unequal on Earth, with South Africa’s richest households almost 10 times wealthier than poor households.
Despite the rise of a black middle class, much of the disparity falls along racial lines — the legacy of apartheid’s racist legislation.
Previously disadvantaged South Africans hold fewer assets, have fewer skills, earn lower wages, and are still more likely to be unemployed, a 2018 World Bank report on poverty and inequality in South Africa found. And, at the other end of the spectrum, an elite, mainly white minority continues to thrive.
“When did we get our freedom, 1994? All of these years with promises all the way. No man. A lot of black folks are still suffering,” said Wilson Mnenbe, a 24-year-old fashion designer in Johannesburg’s central business district.