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Ruling Party ANC Takes Early Lead as Vote Counting Continues; EFF Hits 1Million Votes

Results from nearly half of voting districts in South Africa’s election put the African National Congress on course to retain power but at risk of its worst performance in a national poll since the end of white minority rule 25 years ago.

As of 1400 GMT on Thursday, votes in 48 percent of 22,925 voting districts had been counted. The early tallies put the ANC on 57 percent in the parliamentary race, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on nearly 23 percent and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on nearly 9 percent.

Analysts have said that a poor showing for the ANC would embolden opponents of President Cyril Ramaphosa and risk a potential leadership challenge against him. The elections are the first test of national sentiment since Ramaphosa replaced scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February 2018.

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The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a government agency, also forecast a decline in support for the ANC, which it predicted would get just over 57 percent in the parliamentary vote and about 50 percent in the provincial polls.

Turnout on Wednesday was just over 65 percent, according to the votes processed so far, the Electoral Commission said.

ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte said she expected the ANC’s vote share to grow as results from larger voting districts filtered through.

“By late afternoon we will know where we stand,” she said.

Duarte said voter turnout could end up below the 65-70 percent range the ANC estimated late on Wednesday when most polling stations had closed.

Chief Electoral Officer Sy Mamabolo said the Electoral Commission hoped that results from around 90 percent of voting districts would be declared by 10 pm local time (2000 GMT), with the remaining results to be released on Friday morning

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