The ANC is hurtling toward victory in the election, partial results show, though it is on course for its worst performance in a national poll in its 25 years in government.
But the 167 000 spoilt votes could potentially have cost a party three seats in the National Assembly.
At 7am, and after just more than 75% of voting districts have been counted, the ANC has 56.6% of the votes. The DA is sitting on 22.5%. The EFF is on 9.8%, and the gap between the IFP and the VF+ has closed to 2.7% and 2.6% respectively.
17 233 of 22 925 voting districts have been captured
There have been 167 217 spoilt votes. With 400 seats in Parliament, to earn a single seat for an MP a party would have to secure 0.25% of the total vote. With 26.7 million registered voters for 2019, and an estimated turnout of 70% (it is currently on 65%), this means a party would need about 46,725 votes to get a seat at the table.
This means that these spoilt votes could potentially have meant three seats - nearly four seats – in the National Assembly.
Based on the latest results from the Electoral Commission, analysts predicted the ANC was set for a vote share of between 55% and 59%. A poor showing for the ANC would embolden opponents of President Cyril Ramaphosa and risk a potential challenge to his leadership, analysts have said.
“The ANC will be elected with a record low of 27% of the eligible population backing them, compared with 47% in 1999. This kind of dynamic is not a mandate nor an impetus to change,” said Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex.
Ramaphosa is trying to arrest a slide in support for Africa’s oldest liberation movement, whose tenure in the last decade was punctuated by corruption scandals, a stagnant economy and high unemployment.
“People have shown they are willing to forgive the ANC,” said Ronald Lamola, a member of the ANC’s top governing body.
“We are looking at a clear mandate for our policies.”
With promises to fight graft, improve public services and put people into jobs, Ramaphosa won an internal party leadership election in December 2017, narrowly defeating a faction allied with former head of state Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa replaced the scandal-plagued Zuma as president of Africa's most advanced economy three months later.
But his efforts have been constrained by divisions within his own party, where some Zuma supporters still retain influence and oppose his agenda.
The ANC achieved its best parliamentary election result in 2004 under former President Thabo Mbeki, when it won more than 69% of the vote. But its support fell under Zuma, and it lost control of big cities like Johannesburg, the commercial capital, in local government elections in 2016.
Election officials said voting in general had progressed smoothly but that there had been isolated disruptions caused by bad weather, unscheduled power outages or community protests. – Additional reporting by Reuters