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ANC wins but denied two-thirds majority

SOUTH Africa's long-dominant ANC easily won the nation's parliamentary elections according to the final tally released yesterday, but did not get the two-thirds of the vote it won in the last elections. The victory puts party leader Jacob Zuma in line for the presidency.

The African National Congress took 65.9 percent of the nearly 18 million votes cast Wednesday.

The victory was never in doubt. But it was unclear whether the party would retain its coveted two-thirds of the seats in the 400-member parliament.

The vote tally roughly parallels the seat distribution, but the exact number of seats must still be allotted by election officials according to a complicated formula after the final count is certified.

ANC spokesman Ishmael Mnisi said the apparent slide was unimportant.

"We don't read much into percentages," he said. "We're quite happy with the mandate that the people of all races, black and white, have given the ANC."

The ANC won 69.69 percent of the vote in the last elections in 2004, when it was led by Zuma's rival Thabo Mbeki. It won 66.35 percent in 1999.

The party's rivals will make much of the slide, however slight.

It could be seen as a message that voters want some limits on the party. ANC rivals had argued Zuma should not have the two-thirds majority needed to enact major budgetary plans or legislation unchallenged, or to change the constitution.

"We have said that we don't need that" two-thirds majority, the ANC's Mnisi said. "We don't even have the intention to change the constitution."

It could be linked to the split in the movement that defeated apartheid. A new, black-led party formed by disgruntled former ANC leaders close to Mbeki placed third in the race, with just over 7 percent of the final tally.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance got just over 16 percent. In total more than 77 percent of the country's 23 million registered voters cast ballots.

A strong ethnic vote from Zulus in Zuma's homeland helped boost the ANC, which sees the populist Zuma as the first leader who can energize voters since Nelson Mandela. Parliament elects the president, and is expected to vote Zuma into office in May.


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