The ANC party that liberated South Africa from apartheid is losing its thirty-year majority

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MK Party supporters dance in the middle of the street in Mahlbnathini village in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, on May 30, 2024. | Photo credit: AP

The African National Congress party lost its parliamentary majority on Saturday in a historic election result that puts South Africa on a new political path for the first time since the end of the white minority government’s apartheid system 30 years ago.

With almost 99% of the vote counted, the once-dominant ANC had secured just over 40% in Wednesday’s election, well short of the majority it had achieved since the famous 1994 all-race vote that ended to apartheid and brought it to power. under Nelson Mandela. The final results have yet to be formally announced by the independent electoral commission that conducted the elections.

While opposition parties welcomed it as a momentous breakthrough for a country struggling with deep poverty and inequality, the ANC somehow remained the largest party but will now have to look for a coalition partner or partners to stay in government and re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa. for a second and final term. Parliament elects the South African president after national elections.

The result ended the ANC’s three-decade dominance of South Africa’s young democracy, but the path forward promises to be complicated for Africa’s most advanced economy, and no coalition is yet on the table.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, stood at about 21%. Former President Jacob Zuma’s new MK party, which has turned against the ANC he once led, came third with just over 14% of the vote in the first elections it contested.

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Which parties the ANC could approach to co-govern is now the urgent focus as Parliament must elect a president within a fortnight of the official announcement of the final election results. There would be a flurry of negotiations, which would likely be complicated.

The MK party said one of their conditions for an agreement was for Ramaphosa to be removed as ANC leader and president.

“We are willing to negotiate with the ANC, but not with Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC,” MK party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela said.

More than fifty parties participated in the national elections, but given how far the ANC appears to be from a majority, it is likely that it will have to approach one of the three main opposition parties.

Also read: African National Congress | A party in decline

MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have called for the nationalization of parts of the economy. The centrist Democratic Alliance is seen as a business-friendly party and analysts say an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcomed by foreign investors.

Despite the uncertainty, South Africa’s opposition parties hailed the new political picture as a much-needed change for the country of 62 million, which is Africa’s most developed but also one of the world’s most unequal.

South Africa has widespread poverty and extremely high unemployment rates, and the ANC is struggling to raise the living standards of millions of people. The official unemployment rate is 32%, one of the highest in the world, and poverty disproportionately affects black people, who make up 80% of the population and have been at the core of the ANC’s support for years.

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The ANC has also been blamed – and apparently punished by voters – for a failure in basic government services that is impacting millions of people and leaving many without water, electricity or decent housing.

“We have said for the past 30 years that the way to save South Africa is to break the ANC majority and we have done that,” said John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote and turnout was expected to be around 60%, according to figures from the Independent Electoral Commission leading the elections.

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