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Updated Jun 1, 2024, 5:07pm EDT
africa

South Africa’s ANC loses its majority leading to tense coalition talks

Reuters/Alet Pretorius
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The News

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time, leading to what is likely to be a fortnight of uncertainty and tense negotiations with rival parties to form a coalition government.

It marks the biggest shift in the way the country is governed since it came to power after the end of apartheid 30 years ago.

With nearly all votes counted, electoral commission data showed the ANC had secured just 40% of the vote in Wednesday’s election. Some 99.6% of votes had been counted as of Saturday, however the final results will be officially declared until Sunday.

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The party’s failure to secure 50% of the 400 seats in the National Assembly has sparked discussions over how a coalition could be formed with smaller parties to form a government. Under the constitution, a new parliament must convene within 14 days of final results being declared. And parliament’s first act must be to elect the country’s president.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance won 22% of the vote and the populist uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party), formed just six months ago and led by former president Jacob Zuma, stood at 14.6%.

MK, in an exclusive interview, told Semafor it would not join a coalition with the ANC if it was led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, or with the DA. The DA’s leader told Semafor his party would not join a coalition that involved MK or the Marxist-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) who won 9.5% of the vote.

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EFF leader Julius Malema on Saturday told reporters his party was open to coalition talks with all parties. But he said his party would want to ensure it could enact its policies on redistributing land, as well as nationalizing mines and the country’s Reserve Bank. MK had also called for such an approach on land and nationalization.

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Know More

Some 27.7 million people were registered to vote. Voter turnout stood at just under 60%, with some 16 million people having cast their ballot.

The ANC’s reputation was hit by unemployment at around 33%, which rises to 45.5% for people aged between 15 and 34. It was further undermined by rising crime rates, corruption scandals and rolling power rationing blackouts known as “loadshedding.”

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The ANC had won every election since 1994, when Nelson Mandela led the party to power following the end of white minority rule.

But support for the ANC has waned in recent years while the number of opposition parties party has mushroomed. The party has seen its support, and share of the vote, fall in recent years. Back in 1994, it won 62.5% of the National Assembly’s seats. At the last election, in 2019, it secured 57.5% of the vote.

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Room for Disagreement

Former President Jacob Zuma called for the vote to be conducted again due to what his party said were irregularities in the voting process. Zuma spoke at a press conference in the election results center, after sparking a media scrum with his arrival. More than 20 smaller parties said they backed the claims and were therefore disputing the election results. 

Zuma called on the electoral commission to delay the final declaration of the results which is due to take place on Sunday. “Nobody must declare tomorrow. If that happens, people will be provoking us because we know what we are talking about — we’re not guessing,” said Zuma, late on Saturday. “I’m hoping whoever is responsible is hearing what we’re saying: don’t start trouble, when there is no trouble,” he said.

South Africa’s constitution stipulates that authorities must announce the result within seven days of the election. 

The electoral commission’s chairman, at a late night press conference held after Zuma addressed journalists, said the official declaration of the election results would be declared on Sunday as planned.

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