South Africa President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence, as ruling ANC party lawmakers stuck by their leader despite growing divisions and fierce criticism of his rule.
Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of Parliament, announced that the Motion had been defeated, with 177 votes supporting and 198 votes against it.
Criticism of Zuma from within the African National Congress (ANC) has grown amid multiple corruption scandals and mounting economic woes, and the celebrated party of Nelson Mandela has declined sharply at the polls.
But ANC officials and most analysts had predicted that the president would survive the vote given the party's large parliamentary majority.
The ANC parliamentary party celebrated victory over what it described as an attempted "soft coup".
"It has been the publicly stated intention of the opposition... to collapse government, deter service delivery and sow seeds of chaos in society to ultimately grab power," it said in a statement.
Several opposition parties led thousands of anti-Zuma protesters outside the national assembly before the vote, while supporters of the president held a rival march.
Zuma, who has built up a network of loyalists in the ANC since coming to power in 2009, has survived several previous parliamentary votes but these had been held without secret balloting.
"Today's motion of no confidence result is closer than anyone expected," Mmusi Maimane, leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party said, hailing "brave" ANC lawmakers who voted against Zuma.
"Jacob Zuma is the manifestation of what the ANC has become — a toxic mix of corruption, cronyism and nepotism."