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The early signs of emerging political competition for the ANC in South Africa look to be solidifying into a new political party. Independents aligned to the breakaway faction “won 10 out of 27 seats previously held by the ruling party in the Western Cape provincial byelections” and Pretoria High Court has rejected an ANC attempt to prevent the faction from using the Congress of the People (COPE) as their party name.

The decision by the Pretoria High Court came just two days before COPE supporters were due to meet in Bloemfontein to choose a leader and set out the party’s policies and strategy for general elections, which are expected in March 2009. The new party has not yet formally endorsed a programme, but it has hinted strongly it will adopt centrist, pro-business policies similar to those pursued by Mr Mbeki during his nine years in office.