PRETORIA -- The ruling African National Congress (ANC) swept toward victory in South Africa's fifth post-apartheid election on Thursday, handing President Jacob Zuma the clout to push through pro-business reforms in the face of union and leftist opposition.
Burdened with sluggish economic growth and damaging strikes in his first term, the scandal-plagued Zuma has devoted less and less time over the last year to the wishes of unions, whose long walkouts have hit confidence in Africa's most developed economy.
He has also batted away opposition from the far left, squelching some expectations the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) - led by his former protégé Julius Malema - would ride a wave of populist anger over widespread poverty and unemployment.
The ANC, the liberation movement that came to power two decades ago under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, had won 63.7 percent of Wednesday's vote with nearly two-thirds of districts counted, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said.
"There's no deeply insightful change, but the bottom line is that by 2019 they are going to have to be growing this economy and making sure they can still raise tax revenue,” said Cape Town-based political analyst Nic Borain.
The ANC's enduring popularity has confounded those who had expected its support to wane as the glory of its past receded into history and voters focused instead on the sluggish growth and slew of scandals that have typified Zuma's first term.
South Africa's top anti-graft agency accused Zuma this year of "benefiting unduly" from a $23 million state-funded security upgrade to his private home at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal that included a swimming pool and chicken run.
Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and defended the upgrades as necessary for the protection of a head of state. He confidently told reporters on Monday that the Nkandla controversy was "not an issue with the voters.”