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South Africa Election: ANC Loses Majority, Heads for Coalition Talks

South Africa’s election results have shown that the ruling African National Congress party (ANC) has lost its majority for the first time in 30 years.

The results mark a major political shift in South Africa’s politics since the end of the apartheid era. For the first time, the ANC will have to form a coalition to govern the country, amid waning support for Nelson Mandela’s party.

ANC Disappointment

According to the final results, announced on Sunday, the ANC won 40.18% of the votes, securing only 159 seats in the 400-member national assembly. This is a huge drop from the 57.7% it won in the last election in 2019.

The main opposition party, the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA), won 21.8% of the votes, securing 87 seats. The newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK), led by former president Jacob Zuma, received 14.59% of the votes, with 58 seats. The far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a breakaway from ANC’s youth wing, won 9.52%, securing 39 seats.

South Africa Election: ANC Loses Majority, Heads for Coalition Talks
ANC loses majority for the first time in 30 years

The results came after years of corruption scandals and economic mismanagement. They reflect voters’ frustration and anger over high unemployment, power cuts and violent crimes.

Melanie Verwoerd, an analyst and former ANC MP, told CNN: “What we have seen is voters are unhappy with the ANC’s recent history. In particular what happened in the Zuma years and what followed on from that.”

Verwoerd added that parties like MK and EFF have capitalized on people’s discontent over “general arrogance and loss of connection with the general voter from the ANC side.”

Coalition Talks

The ANC has to embark on coalition talks to form a government. Political parties will have two weeks to form a coalition before the new parliament elects the president. If they fail, the country will need to hold new election.

After the results, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for South Africa’s political parties to overcome their differences and work together to meet the people’s needs. He said: “They expect the parties for which they have voted to find common ground, to overcome their differences, to act and work together for the good of everyone.”

South Africa Election: ANC Loses Majority, Heads for Coalition Talks
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking after the announcement of results

The ANC had said on Sunday that it was starting negotiations with all major parties, reported the Associated Press (AP). The ruling party’s Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula said it was open to negotiations with all parties, including the DA, which has led criticism against the ANC.

However, DA leader, John Steenhuisen, told CNN in an interview that he had “no sympathy for Mr. Ramaphosa and his party.”

In response, Mbalula warned potential coalition parties that Ramaphosa’s position as the ANC leader was not in question, noting that the ANC would not consider demands that Ramaphosa step down. “This is not going to happen,” he said.

Possible ANC Partners

Although the coalition between the ANC and DA is the most likely, the ruling party has other options, such as a deal with the EFF or even the MK. Both parties have pledged to nationalize parts of South Africa’s economy, including gold and platinum mines.

However, the MK leaders said they will not work with the ANC while it is led by Ramaphosa. The MK leader, Zuma, was president from 2009 to 2018 and was forced to resign by the ANC over corruption allegations, which he denies.

South Africa Election
MK party leader Jacob Zuma

Meanwhile, the DA has said it will not work with the EFF and MK, describing them a “Doomsday coalition” for South Africa.

In this regard, political analyst Oscar van Heerden said a coalition between the ANC and DA would “possibly give stability” but will face some opposition inside the ANC. Van Heerden added: “The DA has approached the ANC as the enemy over many, many years. The next few days is going to be a very difficult period.”

Case Against Israel

As South Africa is leading a genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and is preparing to assume the G20 presidency later this year, the election results will cast a shadow over its role on the global stage.

South Africa’s case against Israel over its actions in Gaza is largely driven by the ANC. The case at the ICJ could go on for years, meaning that the new government coalition will inherit it.

Nonetheless, the DA has said it doesn’t support the genocide case against Israel, and would prefer to push for a mediated settlement in the Israel-Hamas war. The EFF is seen to be pro-Palestinian as the ANC, and has also accused Israel of genocide. However, the MK position in not yet clear.

South Africa Election
EFF leader Julius Malema

G20 Presidency

As the only African nation in the G20, South Africa will assume the group’s presidency on December 1, 2024. It will take over from Brazil, which is using its presidency to advance the representation of developing nations on the global stage.

Hence, the ANC and its coalition partners will need to find a common position on pressing global issues, including climate change, conflict and reforms of international financial institutions.

Then comes South Africa’s relations with Russia. The ANC has adopted a pro-Moscow stance which strained relations between South Africa and the US. The DA has been a strong critic of the ANC relation with Russia, accusing it of betraying its claimed position of nonalignment and neutrality towards the war in Ukraine.

South Africa Election: ANC Loses Majority, Heads for Coalition Talks
DA leader John Steenhuisen

In this respect, Michelle Gavin, senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), wrote last month: “Regardless of the electoral outcome, deep-seated elements of South African foreign policy will persist, such as championing the rights of Palestinians and calling for international institutions to reform to better reflect the priorities of African states.”

She pointed out that an “unstable” governing coalition could hurt South Africa as a “gateway to Africa” for foreign investors and would likely “push the country even closer to Russia and China.”

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