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South Africa: For the 1st time in 30 years, post-Mandela ANC may lose majority

South Africa: For the 1st time in 30 years, post-Mandela ANC may lose majority

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: For the first time since 1994 when Nelson Mandela led South Africa into a post-Apartheid regime, his African National Congress (ANC) may be forced to form a national coalition government as partial election results put it well short of a majority.

With over half of the votes counted across the country’s nine provinces, the ANC had received less than 42 percent of the national vote, according to the early results as counting continued, a huge drop from the 57.5 percent it received in the last national election in 2019. The final results from Wednesday’s election are expected to be out by Sunday.

The count from more than 12,000 of the 23,000 polling stations indicated that the ANC would need a coalition partner to form a government and re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second and final term.

The ANC was still leading the vote count while the main opposition Democratic Alliance had won 24 percent.

The ANC has had a clear majority for all 30 years of South Africa’s democracy since the party swept to power in a 1994 election which officially ended the apartheid system of White minority rule, leading Dr. Nelson Mandela to become the country’s first Black President. It has been the dominant political force and its slipping below 50 percent would be a momentous change for Africa’s most advanced economy.

The ANC’s support has steadily declined from a high of nearly 70 percent of the vote 20 years ago as South Africa grapples with deep socioeconomic problems, including widespread poverty and now one of the worst unemployment rates in the world at 32 percent. Poverty and unemployment disproportionately affect South Africa’s Black majority which make up 80 percent of the population and were the core of the ANC’s support over the years.

While the inequalities of apartheid were always going to be hard to solve, the ANC has also been blamed by many for failures in basic government services, numerous government corruption scandals, and most recently an electricity crisis that led to rolling blackouts across the country of 62 million.

This election is shaping up to be the tipping point when more South Africans could choose another party.

A projection based on vote returns estimated on Friday that the ANC would end up with just over 40 percent, a drop of around 17 percent percentage points, which would be a stunning result for a post-Mandela South Africa.

The ANC has said little about its possible coalition partners despite the issue dominating South Africa’s political analysis for months ahead of the election.

Analysts say the coalition negotiations will depend on how far the ANC falls short of a majority in the final results if indeed it remains under 50 percent. If it’s just short of a majority, it could approach smaller parties to get past 50 percent. If it is some way off as it was in the latest results it might have to work with one of the two main opposition parties, the centrist Democratic Alliance and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters. They have very different ideologies.

The Democratic Alliance already has a pre-election agreement with several other opposition parties excluding the EFF, with a mission to remove the ANC completely from government. But that group of parties would have to increase their share of the vote significantly to be in a position to do that.

Democratic leader John Steenhuisen said on election day: All bets are off in this election. We’re heading into a coalition country.


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