JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's opposition called on Wednesday for parliament to be dissolved and a national election held, a day after its no-confidence motion in President Jacob Zuma was defeated.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) suggested the opposition was hallucinating if it thought that would happen.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane said his opposition party would bring the motion to dissolve parliament to the assembly on Thursday and request that it be debated as soon as possible.
Zuma, who has been dogged by accusations of corruption and mismanaging the economy, survived an attempt in parliament on Tuesday to force him from office. But he was left politically wounded after some members of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party voted with the opposition.
Maimane told a news conference in Cape Town that the result showed the ANC was divided and the country needed "a new beginning".
"The ANC may have won in the no-confidence motion in parliament yesterday, but it has lost the confidence of the country," Maimane said.
"We believe the voters should now have the chance to express their opinion about the conduct of the ANC in defending Jacob Zuma. In short, we believe that parliament should be dissolved now so that the country can hold an early election."
Zuma's term as South Africa's president is due to run until 2019.
It was not clear whether the motion would be allowed and parliamentary officials could not be reached for comment. Wednesday was a public holiday in South Africa and government offices and financial markets were closed.
But when asked about the DA party plan, ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa replied in a text: "A dream and hallucinations."
In a statement issued later, the ANC said:" We will defeat this planned motion" as it had previous attempts against Zuma.
The ruling party said the DA's move "exposes what the ANC has always stated, that the motion of no-confidence in President Zuma is not about the President but an attempt at regime change through parliament".
While speaking on behalf of the ANC in parliament on Tuesday, deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude said the no-confidence motion against Zuma was a "power grab" by the opposition.
Analysts also said that even though the opposition had attracted a number of votes from the ruling party in the failed no-confidence motion against Zuma, it was a different prospect altogether to expect the rebels to join this time around.
"The DA has smelt a degree of blood and are looking to drive the knife in -- not sure this is the right course of action," said political analyst Daniel Silke.
"They want to keep dissension and divisions alive in the ANC but when you want MPs to vote for an early election and not, say against, Zuma, this is a different ball game. Many won't agree."
Zuma, who has held power since 2009, has now survived nine no-confidence votes despite a record in office marred by allegations of sleaze and influence-peddling. He hailed his win as a victory for the ANC.
Reporting by James Macharia