(photo credit: AP)
South Africa's African National Congress easily won a parliamentary majority, according to voting results Saturday, setting the stage for the controversial Jacob Zuma to ascend to the presidency. But the near-complete tally leaves the ruling party's cherished two-thirds majority in doubt.
The results also showed that the ANC lost power in the country's richest province because of hostility from mixed-race voters.
Zuma's supporters have been celebrating since shortly after the voting ended on Wednesday as his party's victory wasn't seriously in doubt.
The ANC views Zuma as the first leader who can energize voters since the legendary Nelson Mandela. But others say Zuma is too beholden to unions and leftists, and will not be able to fulfill his promises of creating jobs and a stronger social safety net. At the end of the campaign, Zuma was talking not about creating jobs, but staving off job losses.
His warmth and rise from poverty to political prominence have drawn adoring crowds throughout the election campaign, although critics question whether he can implement his populist agenda amid the global economic meltdown.
The nearly complete voting results released early Saturday show that more than 77 percent of the country's 23 million registered voters cast ballots. With 11.6 million votes counted, the ANC had 66.03 percent, making it appear that the ANC might have fallen short of its goal of winning at least 66.6 percent.
However, the final number of seats in Parliament is based on a complicated formula and has yet to be determined.
The ANC needs to keep its two-thirds majority to enact major budgetary plans or legislation unchallenged, or to change the constitution.
The ANC swept South Africa's first post-apartheid election in 1994 and the two following that. In 2004, it took 69.69 percent of the parliamentary vote.
If the ANC fails to at least match that this year, it will be seen as a message from voters that they want some limits on the party.