Its landslide victory hands the ANC a complex challenge. "The next five years will be a testing time for the party and its president, Thabo Mbeki," says Hawthorne. "There are fewer excuses now, and government has to be seen to work and to deliver on its promises." President Nelson Mandela’s role as the Great Conciliator guaranteed him almost infinite goodwill from the electorate; as a mere mortal, President Mbeki will have to earn his the hard way.
It may not have delivered the houses and jobs it promised in its first term, but Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress romped home with an even larger share of the vote in South Africa’s second democratic election. With a handful of ballots remaining to be counted Thursday, the ANC looked set to win the two-thirds parliamentary majority that would allow it to make constitutional changes. Not that any are imminent. "The ANC has no plans to change the constitution and they have no reason to," says TIME Johannesburg bureau chief Peter Hawthorne. "The present constitution is certainly working for them." The clearest evidence of that was the almost 5 percent share of the vote the ruling party gained since the last election, despite economic downturn, rampant unemployment and a spiraling crime wave. "The increase was probably caused by a combination of a lower voter turnout and a fractured opposition," says Hawthorne.