JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s ruling party led its rivals in early election results on Thursday after a campaign in which the opposition had tried to woo voters unhappy with alleged corruption and a lack of opportunities for the poor.
Results released by the national election commission showed the African National Congress with about 58 percent and the opposition Democratic Alliance with 28.5 percent after about 3.6 million votes had been counted in Wednesday’s election. The Economic Freedom Fighters, a new party that wants to redistribute the country’s resources to the poor, was third with about 4 percent.
Nearly one-third of about 22,000 voting districts had been counted and turnout of registered voters was just over 70 percent, according to the election commission. About 25 million South Africans, or half the population, had registered to vote in the fifth all-race polls in South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
The African National Congress, which led the fight against apartheid, has dominated politics since Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president in 1994. On the ruling party’s watch, millions of people have gained access to water and other basic services, but protests routinely erupt in areas where residents say the government has ignored their needs.
The group has also come under fire from some South African Jews for taking pro-Palestinian stances, including endorsing Israeli Apartheid Week in March.
In a voting guide last week, the South African Zionist Federation rated the tiny African Christian Democratic Party as the strongest supporter of Israel among the political parties. The ACDP on its website is described as standing for “Christian Democratic principles.” It earned 0.81 percent of the vote in the 2009 general elections.
The South African Jewish community historically has cultivated close ties with the African National Congress, South Africa’s dominant political party, and Jews have long played a prominent role in the Democratic Alliance, the primary opposition party.
However, South African Jewish Board of Deputies President Zev Krengel told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the ANC and the Democratic Alliance “have not been such good friends to Israel.”
President Jacob Zuma has become enmeshed in a scandal surrounding more than $20 million in state spending on his private home in the Nkandla area, though he denies any wrongdoing and has promised to work against graft.
In 2009, the African National Congress fell just short of a two-thirds majority.
The opposition Democratic Alliance is a centrist party led by former journalist and anti-apartheid activist Helen Zille, and the Economic Freedom Fighters is headed by Julius Malema, a former head of the ruling party’s youth league.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.