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South Africa's elections in three questions

There is little doubt that the African National Congress will win today’s national elections. The party of Nelson Mandela brought an end to apartheid and has won all three rounds of general elections since 1994. In the last one in 2004, the ANC won nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Several questions remain, however.

How big will the ANC’s victory be?

Pre-election surveys predict that the ANC will win about 60 percent to 65 percent of the vote. At a press conference Tuesday, ANC leader Jacob Zuma said he left the question of percentage to the Independent Electoral Commission but he said that “all we are looking for is overwhelming majority.” Whether the ANC retains the two-thirds majority it secured five years ago is important because it would allow the ANC to easily amend the constitution.

Who will be the main opposition party?

The Democratic Alliance led by Helen Zille has positioned itself as the ANC’s main foe, but this could change with the arrival of the Congress of the People (Cope), a party formed late last year by ANC dissidents in the aftermath of former President Thabo Mbeki’s forced resignation. Depending on their respective results, the two parties could also form coalitions allowing them to edge out the ANC in one or more of the country’s nine provinces. Earlier this month, Cope presidential candidate Mvume Dandala said that he expects Cope to do better than any other opposition party.

Will the government veer to the left under Zuma’s administration?

Zuma ascended to power thanks in part to the support of trade unions and the South African Communist Party. Some fear that Zuma’s support base will force him to adopt more radical policies that will scare off investors, but there is no certainty this will actually happen. Zuma has worked hard to woo the business community, and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who is widely credited with engineering South Africa’s sustained economic growth, is expected to play a prominent role in the new government. “There is not going to be any major shift,” said political analyst Allister Sparks. “Given the economic recession, he (Zuma) is not going to be able to move either way.”