NEWS

 

South Africa: Zuma Confident of
'Decisive Mandate' Ahead of Polls

South Africa's ruling party boss Jacob Zuma said Tuesday he was confident that a large turnout would deliver his African National Congress a "decisive mandate," one day ahead of general elections.

Polls predict the ANC will take at least 60 percent of the vote in today's general elections, making Zuma a shoo-in for president when parliament meets in two weeks to elect a new head of state.

"We anticipate a massive turnout at the polls today and we expect that the people of this country will once again give the ANC a huge and decisive mandate," Zuma told reporters."We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly, and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission," he added.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expects a record number of voters to turn out for the elections, with more than 20 million people expected to cast ballots, said spokeswoman Kate Bapela.

"All of our 19,726 stations were opened at 7:00 am today, at this stage we do not foresee any disruptions or hiccups," she said.

The elections are the fourth since the 1994 polls that brought Nelson Mandela as president following the fall of apartheid. Bapela said the IEC is confident the vote will be free and fair, adding that even the once volatile east coast province of KwaZulu-Natal has seen fewer cases of political intolerance than in the past. Police have been deployed to a number of areas identified as possible hotspots, she said.

"We do not regard these areas to be a major security concern. We believe that security forces will be able to maintain peace and prevent any possible disruption," Bapela said. The ANC's dominance is being challenged by a new breakaway group, the Congress of the People (COPE), formed after divisions caused by the ouster of former president Thabo Mbeki in September 2008.

COPE is among 40 parties that will contest the elections, 26 at national level and 14 provincial level.

The ANC is gunning to secure another two thirds majority, which it has held since 2004 and which allows the party to change the constitution at will. Analysts say the party could lose its super-majority, making the size of the ANC victory the key question in the election. Last weekend, the ANC hosted a mass rally in Johannesburg which was boosted by a surprise appearance by Mandela, whose attendance was seen as a major endorsement.

Speculation is rife about a Zuma presidency, a man who is revered by the poor but distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image. Zuma had been the subject of a corruption investigation stemming from a 1999 arms deal, but the charges were dropped two weeks ago. Prosecutors argued that political meddling had compromised the legal process, but insisted they remained confident of the case against him leaving a cloud of doubt over his role in the scandal.

Zuma again tried to dispel doubts about his integrity, telling reporters: "There's absolutely no cloud. I've never seen a cloud around me." He insisted that COPE, which has tried to eat into the ANC support base since its formation five months ago, will not be able to make any significant electoral inroads.

Standard Chartered analyst Razia Khan said if the ANC does win a new super-majority, she believed the party would likely show restraint in its ability to amend the constitution. "Should the ANC win the two thirds parliamentary majority that would allow it to change the constitution, markets will correctly interpret this to mean that the electorate have been calling for change," Khan said.

"Markets may nonetheless still react negatively to the achievement of a two-thirds majority by the ANC. We believe that these fears are largely unfounded," she added. Jacob Zuma brushed off concerns about his integrity Tuesday, denying any cloud of corruption over him, as his ANC party heads toward election victory that will make him South Africa's next president.

Polls predict the ANC will take at least 60 percent of the vote in Wednesday's general elections, making Zuma a shoo-in for president when parliament meets in early May to elect a new head of state.

Zuma said he was confident of a "huge and decisive mandate" for his African National Congress (ANC) and again moved to dispel doubts about his integrity after graft charges were dropped against him two weeks ago.

"There's absolutely no cloud. I've never seen a cloud around me," Zuma told reporters, after including a battle against corruption in his campaign. "We reiterate that we will use our majority responsibly, and will not ride roughshod over the rights of the people, or bulldoze other parties into submission," he added.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) expects a record number of voters to turn out for the elections, with more than 20 million people expected to cast ballots, said spokeswoman Kate Bapela.

"All of our 19,726 stations will be open at 7:00 am on Wednesday," she told AFP. "At this stage we do not foresee any disruptions or hiccups."

The build-up to the country's fourth democratic elections has been the most energetic since 1994 polls which swept Nelson Mandela to power and ended white minority rule. Speculation is rife about the quality of the presidency in Zuma's hands, a man who is revered by the poor but distrusted by the middle class because of his tainted image and fears over strong ties to the ANC's leftist partners.

The 67-year-old former anti-apartheid activist, who was jailed for a decade alongside Mandela, has pushed themes of anti-corruption and good governance on the campaign trail and promised Tuesday a smooth transition to a new government. Current President Kgalema Motlanthe, viewed as the ANC's bench-warmer for Zuma after the ouster of Thabo Mbeki last September, insisted that South Africa's democracy remained strong, despite a series of scandals.

"Our democracy is vibrant and those doomsayers who have been predicting our democracy is floundering will be made to eat humble pie," he said.

The ANC's two-thirds parliamentary dominance allowing it to change the constitution at will is being challenged by a new breakaway group, the Congress of the People (COPE), formed due to divisions after Mbeki's axing.

COPE is among 40 parties that will contest the elections, 26 at national level and 14 at provincial level.

While analysts say its super majority could be lost, Zuma insisted that COPE, which has tried to eat into the ANC support base, will not make significant electoral inroads. Last weekend, the ANC hosted a mass rally in Johannesburg where Mandela made a surprise attendance, seen as a major endorsement and moral boost.

Zuma has been dogged by a long-standing arms deal investigation that has rocked South African politics for a decade. Prosecutors dropped corruption charges against him two weeks ago by arguing political meddling had compromised the legal process, but insisted they remained confident of the case against him.

Standard Chartered analyst Razia Khan said if the ANC does win a new super-majority, she believed the party would likely show restraint in its ability to amend the constitution. "Markets may nonetheless still react negatively to the achievement of a two-thirds majority by the ANC. We believe that these fears are largely unfounded," she added.

Source: http://allafrica.com

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