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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 11:41 GMT
ANC loses support
Election officials
More than 90% of the polling stations have submitted results
Early results in the local elections in South Africa have confirmed the ruling African National Congress's lead but also an increase in support for the main opposition party.

Results from more than 90% of polling stations indicate that the ANC won 59% of the vote, while the Democratic Alliance took 23%.

The newly-formed opposition party's support rose six per cent on the figure its constituent parties recorded in the general election last year.

The poll had been seen as the first major test of President Mbeki's popularity since coming to office.

The Zulu nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party is on nine per cent, with a turn out of about 48%.

President Mbeki
President Mbeki faced his first test
The early results indicate that the ANC won 106 of the 284 districts, with the Democratic Alliance taking 16 and the Inkatha Freedom Party 10.

The ANC won five of the country's six metropolitan councils, while the Democratic Alliance consolidated its hold on Cape Town.

There, the fight for the city's one million coloured votes had been particularly bitter.

Serious challenge

Local officials said that generally voting was calm and free of the widespread violence which marked previous polls.

Tuesday's election was the first test for the ruling party since Thabo Mbeki became president 18 months ago.

The ANC took 66% of the vote in June 1999's general election.

The Democratic Alliance, a merger five months ago of the mainly white Democratic Party and the old apartheid National Party, took almost 17%.

Mandela casts vote
Mandela: Urged all to vote
The ANC had faced serious challenges in urban areas such as Cape Town and Johannesburg where disaffection among its supporters is high.

In Durban, while it does not have absolute majority, South Africa TV reported that it would likely take control through an alliance with the Minority Front.

The BBC correspondent in Johannesburg, Jane Standley, says the main surprise has been the high turnout by white voters.

There was a comparatively low turnout among black voters.

Bad-tempered campaign

Casting his vote, President Mbeki dismissed suggestions that voter apathy had been fuelled by disillusionment over the government's failure to deliver on many of its promises.


Black stooges of a white party which can never run this country again

Nelson Mandela on black opposition supporters

The run-up to the vote was marked by an increasingly bad-tempered campaign, with former President Nelson Mandela being accused of playing the race card.

Mr Mandela denounced supporters of the Democratic Alliance as "black stooges of a white party which can never run this country again".

South Africa has more than 18 million registered voters and at stake are 9,000 seats on 284 new streamlined councils, created from 842 temporary bodies set up at the end of apartheid.

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See also:

05 Dec 00 | Africa
The ANC's acid test
18 Sep 00 | Africa
Mbeki attacked over job losses
11 Sep 00 | Africa
ANC in showdown with unions
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