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South Africa elections: final countdown as voters gear up to cast ballots

A woman casts her vote during an especial voting day at Zibambeleni old age home in KwaDadeka, near Durban, South Africa, Monday, May 27, 2024   -  
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Emilio Morenatti/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Africa

Final preparations are underway for South Africa’s election on Wednesday, which falls 30 years after the country ended apartheid rule and may be the first time that long-time ruling party African National Congress (ANC) faces losing a majority in parliament.

Several polls put ANC approval at less than 50% and facing the possibility of losing power for the first time since it won control of the government led by Nelson Mandela in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.

In Johannesburg’s Melville neighbourhood, electoral staff were setting up a polling station ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

Outside the nearby University of Johannesburg, young people, most of whom were born after the ANC took power, expressed frustration at economic problems in the country and a desire for change.

Young people are a critical voice in this year’s elections, with 42% of registered voters being under the age of 40.

Shamiso Tebogo Bopape, 21, is a student at the university.

She said that there is a general lack of confidence in the country’s leaders that will make the vote difficult for many.

“We don’t know who to put our trust in."

"If it’s not the big three, then who else? But also, the smaller parties, they have not been placed in these more affluent positions or bigger positions. We haven’t given them enough power to see what they would do in that position, so we can’t necessarily say we trust them.”

Michelle Khamanga, 22, a recent graduate, said she and fellow graduates are worried about finding jobs.

She echoed many young people’s call for change.

“For most of us that are in university now, we’ve never voted before, so we would like to see something happen. Because ever since I existed, I don’t know, maybe my parents, I’ve never seen anything that is of change,” she said.

Polls open Wednesday at 7 a.m., with provisional election results expected in the days to follow.

Under South Africa’s electoral system, citizens vote for political parties, which then get their share of seats in parliament according to the percentage of the vote received.

These parliamentary representatives, in turn, elect the president.

If ANC is unable to obtain more than 50% of votes, they will have to form a coalition with other parties if they want to reelect President Cyril Ramaphosa for another 5-year term.

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