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Vol 45 No 7

Published 2nd April 2004

South Africa

Thabo's test

The ANC will win the elections but the size of its victory will determine the President's powers

The test is personal. The campaign for the national elections on 14 April is dominated by President Thabo Mbeki's speeches and his face on the television and the election hoardings. Mbeki personifies the African National Congress. Two weeks before the elections, the party had not announced its candidates for the premierships of the nine provincial governments. Loyalists are expected to vote for the party regardless of its candidates. It is an odd choice of tactics: Mbeki is not a natural campaigner, especially when compared to his predecessor, Nelson Mandela. The ANC will win easily. Mbeki's stature in the movement and grip on the government rests on the size of that win. If the party gets the 70 per cent of the vote predicted by some pollsters, it will be unchallengeable in parliament. Moreover, Mbeki's hold on policy - on economic reform and redressing apartheid discrimination - will remain the government's mantra. An ANC 'super-victory' (of 70 per cent plus) will ensure that Mbeki retains control of the succession in 2009 and the political jockeying beforehand.

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