South Africa’s ruling African National Congress started voting in the early hours of Monday for a new leader to replace President Jacob Zuma in a tight race between his former wife and his deputy.
The vote at a national conference in Johannesburg follows a bitter dispute over a decision to exclude almost a 10th of the original 5,240 delegates who the party ruled weren’t properly accredited. Balloting started after the ANC had earlier announced a postponement of the vote, which was originally scheduled to begin Saturday. Delegates from branches in four of the nation’s nine provinces have yet to vote, Talk Radio 702 reported, citing the party.
In the run-up to the conference, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, 65, won more nominations from the party branches than Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the 68-year-old former chairwoman of the African Union Commission.
“Unless there is electoral fraud of some kind, my reading of the mood of the conference is that, if anything, Ramaphosa is likely to win more comfortably as some delegates decide to slip the shackles of their provincial barons,” said Richard Calland, a political analyst and associate law professor at the University of Cape Town.
Besides the ANC leader, the delegates are voting for five other top officials in a ballot that was initially scheduled to take place overnight on Saturday. The race has caused deep rifts in the 105-year-old ANC and unnerved investors seeking political and policy clarity.
The rand rallied to a three-month high as traders bet Ramaphosa will win. The currency gained 0.1 percent to 13.0843 per dollar, the strongest on a closing basis since Sept. 12, by 7:30 a.m. in Johannesburg.
The conference is taking place as Zuma’s immersion in a succession of scandals is eroding the party’s standing to such an extent that it’s now at risk of losing its majority in 2019 elections.
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