JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has received the most nominations for leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ahead of a party vote this month, voting data from the country's nine provinces show.
Ramaphosa is one of two frontrunners in a closely watched contest to take over from President Jacob Zuma as ANC leader at a party conference starting on Dec. 16.
Whoever becomes ANC leader will most likely be the next president of South Africa, owing to the ruling party's electoral dominance.
Ramaphosa received 1,862 nominations by ANC branches, whereas his main rival for ANC leader, former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, received 1,309 endorsements.
Reuters compiled the number of nominations for each candidate based on voting data released by provincial ANC structures.
ANC officials in the provinces of Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal were the last to release their nominations totals on Monday.
Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader and millionaire businessman, is seen as more market-friendly than Dlamini-Zuma, who was previously married to Zuma.
Signs that Ramaphosa has been doing well in the nominations by ANC branches have boosted the rand currency in recent weeks.
However, Dlamini-Zuma could still win the race for ANC leader as analysts say the outcome in December could be swayed by inducements and pressure on conference delegates.
Delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate that was nominated by their ANC branch.
(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Kevin Liffey)