Vote counting under way in South African municipal elections

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 2 (Reuters) – Vote counting is under way in South Africa after Monday’s municipal elections, as the governing African National Congress (ANC) faces dissatisfaction over poor services, high unemployment and creaking infrastructure.

As of 0615 GMT on Tuesday, the ANC had around 46% of votes cast, but relatively few ballots had been counted. Voter turnout was not yet clear.

The local elections are critical for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his party, as it tries to avert its worst result since the end of white minority rule in 1994. At the last municipal polls in 2016 the ANC got around 54% of the vote.

There has been little reliable political polling, but based on the climate of discontent and the few surveys that have been conducted some pundits predict the ANC’s vote share could fall below 50% for the first time since the end of apartheid.

The ANC’s reputation has been damaged by corruption scandals under former president Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa’s predecessor, that hollowed out state coffers and deterred investment.

In 2016, the ANC lost control of Johannesburg, the commercial hub, to a coalition of opposition parties, as well as the political capital Pretoria and industrial hub Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth.

Getting less than half the national vote would be a psychological blow, and would raise the previously unthinkable possibility that the ANC could one day be in opposition.