Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota casts his vote in Bloemfontein.

Johannesburg - The Congress of the People says people shouldn’t sign its death certificate just yet, although the party is lagging behind other newer, smaller parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the National Freedom Party (NFP).

The party said it was still awaiting results from some of its previous “strongholds”.

Cope, which got 1.3 million votes in 2009, attributed its poor performance this time around to “growing pains and internal turmoil”.

At about noon, the party was sitting on 59 124 votes on the national ballot, putting it below the new-kid-on-the-block National Freedom Party, which was sitting at 115 002 votes. The EFF was also streaks ahead of Cope at 356 247.

On the Northern Cape provincial ballot, the party so far had 13 783 votes, or 3.76 percent of the vote.

Cope also suffered in the Eastern Cape, where the party was once the official opposition in the provincial legislature.

The party’s leader, Mosiuoa Lekota, was also not present at the IEC’s results centre on Thursday.

“You can’t sign a death certificate for something that has so much life anyway. Even at the end of the election it’s not going to be,” said Cope member Dr Mark Stanley, who is also the facilitator for the Collective for Democracy.

“Realistically this is a party that has gone through a birth of great excitement five years ago. And now gone through all sorts of growing pains and internal turmoil,” Stanley said.

He said now that all the party’s problems had been sorted out, “we can start building a party of substance”.

Stanley said only 25 percent of the “popular vote” had been counted and only the small voting districts have been counted.

Dennis Bloem, Cope’s chief whip in the previous parliament, said it was “still early days”.

“We are waiting and late this afternoon we will hear and we will see. We are still very hopeful that the figures will climb,” Bloem said.

He said the party was placing its bets on areas like the Free State, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo, “our strongholds”.

Bloem said Cope was very strong in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which still had some outstanding votes.

He added that it was “not fair” for commentators to write off the party based on the preliminary results.

The ANC recently welcomed back five high-profile former Cope members, a few week before the polls at the party’s Calata House in King William’s Town.

The members included Phumelelo Mtsiqela, Noluleko Gcume, Smuts Ngonyama Xhamela, Thozamile Botha and Zola “Zambo” Mlenzana. All previously served the ANC in their respective districts of the Eastern Cape before they joined Cope, which was then a breakaway party formed just before the 2009 elections.

Before that, Cope had lost 19 MPs to the ANC in a mass resignation.

Political Bureau