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South Africa's ruling party suffers biggest election setback

Published:Sunday | August 7, 2016 | 8:00 AM
Leader of the official opposition Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane talks to the press at the election results center in Pretoria, South Africa, last Friday.

JOHANNESBURG (AP):

South Africa's ruling party has suffered its biggest election setback since taking power at the end of apartheid a generation ago, with local media reporting that the African National Congress has lost in the metropolitan area that includes the country's capital, Pretoria.

The opposition Democratic Alliance party, which has roots in the anti-apartheid movement and had a white party leader until last year, edged out the former liberation movement ANC in Tshwane, 43 per cent to 41 per cent, raising the likelihood of a coalition government.

The race for South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, remained too close to call with less than one per cent of votes left to be counted.

Since South Africa's first all-race election in 1994, the ANC has had widespread support on the strength of its successful fight against white-minority rule, while bringing basic amenities to many people who had none. But this time, its hold has been weakened by corruption scandals and a stagnant economy that has frustrated the urban middle class, while poor communities have demanded better services.

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"Election after election, the ANC has hung on to its past glory and kept its place in the hearts of most South Africans. .. . This time round, though, it's not enough," the Mail & Guardian newspaper said in an editorial .

On social media, South Africans mocked President Jacob Zuma's recent claim that the ANC would rule "until Jesus comes back."

The election has been notable for its peaceful power shift away from an entrenched government in Africa, testifying to the strength of South Africa's democracy.

In contrast, 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe has kept control since independence in 1980 with a series of disputed elections and crackdowns on dissent.

Before this election, the ANC had never lost a major black-majority municipality. Now it has lost two, including Nelson Mandela Bay, named for the ANC's star and the country's first black president.

The Democratic Alliance won Nelson Mandela Bay after fielding a white candidate for mayor.