(AGI) - Cape Town, 2 Aug - President Jacob Zuma today urged all registered South African voters to cast their ballots in the 2016 Local Government Elections taking place across the country on Wednesday. South Africa's local government elections are held every five years to elect councillors responsible for governing the country's 278 municipalities, which oversee parks, libraries, sanitation, roads, electricity and water distribution. The elections are poised to be the largest ever, with a record of 200 political parties and over 61 000 candidates participating. In a statement, Zuma reminded the nation that voting is a precious right as the victory over apartheid and the right to vote by all South Africans was not an easy achievement. "We urge all 26 million registered voters across the length and breadth of our country to speak, give direction and refresh the mandate of the 3rd sphere of government through voting on 3 August 2016. All registered voters must celebrate democracy and freedom by turning out to vote." The President has authorised the employment of more than 2 000 members of the South African National Defence Force to assist the South African police to maintain law and order in the run-up to, and during, the elections, in all the country's nine provinces. "Firm action will be taken against anyone who breaks the law or who protests outside the norms of responsible, democratic protest," he said. Zuma's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), remains the party to beat having won more than 60% of the vote in every election since the end of apartheid in 1994. It secured outright control of 198 councils in the last municipal vote five years ago and controls seven of the country's eight biggest metropolitan areas. The ANC's main rival is the Democratic Alliance (DA), which has governed Cape Town since 2006, won 18 councils in 2011 and took 22% of the national vote in 2014. The new kid on the block and the thorn in the side for both the ANC and DA is the Economic Freedom Fighters, which was formed in 2013 and won 6% of the national vote after calling for the nationalisation of mines, banks and lines. However, a national survey suggests declining support among South Africans for the ANC, which have, among other shortcomings, failed to arrest the country's 27% unemployment rate. According to a South African Citizens Survey poll of 1 300 adults who were interviewed on 16 June, the DA now has more backing in Johannesburg, the commercial hub; the Tshwane municipality, which includes the capital, Pretoria; and the southern Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which incorporates the city of Port Elizabeth. But no party had a clear majority in any of the three centres, indicating that they will be run by coalitions after the election. ANC losses would fuel calls for Zuma to be ousted before his current presidential term expires in 2019. He has faced numerous demands to step down since the nation's top court ruled in March that he violated the country's constitution by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on upgrading his private home. A poll conducted by market research company TNS among 2 000 adults showed that Zuma's approval rating dropped to 21% in February this year from 33% the year before.(AGI) .