South African election: ANC loses majority for first time in 30 years

The African National Congress lost its political monopoly in South Africa after Saturday’s election results showed that with almost all votes counted, the party received only about 40%, unable to win. absolute majority for the first time since defeating Africa’s last party. white-led regime 30 years ago.

With South Africans facing one of the world’s highest unemployment rates, electricity and water shortages and rampant crime, the ruling party still outperforms its rivals but has fallen far behind. with nearly 58% of the votes they won in the last election in 2019.

The stunning slide of Africa’s oldest liberation movement has pushed one of the continent’s most stable countries and largest economies onto a difficult and uncharted path.

The party, which won international acclaim on the shoulders of Nelson Mandela, will now have two weeks to build a government by working with one or more rival parties that have derided it as corrupt and vowed never to form an alliance with this party.

“I’m really shocked,” said Maropene Ramokgopa, one of the top officials of the African National Congress, or ANC. “It opened our eyes to say, ‘Look, we’re missing something, somewhere.’”

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who leads the ANC, faces a serious threat to his ambitions to serve a second term. He will be forced to call on the negotiating skills that helped him broker the end of apartheid and rally his highly factionalized party, which is unlikely to agree with which side to ally with.

Detractors are expected to lay the blame for this horrific fall at Mr Ramaphosa’s feet and may try to replace him, possibly with his deputy, Paul Mashatile. The party’s previous largest decline from one election to the next was 4.7% in 2019.

“I don’t expect Ramaphosa, in five years, to make things worse than they have been,” said Khulu Mbatha, an ANC veteran who has criticized the party for not tackling corruption strongly enough. What did he discover?

Without an absolute majority, the ANC cannot hand-pick the president, who is elected by the 400-member National Assembly. There are 52 parties in the national election, and the number of seats the parties receive in Parliament is based on the percentage of votes they win.

“South Africa will experience initial problems as it enters this era,” said Pranish Desai, a data analyst with Good Governance Africa, a non-partisan organization. “Some of it may have been significant, but the voters decided they wanted this.”

Because of the huge gap of up to 50%, the ANC cannot simply woo the smaller parties that would have allowed it to maintain its dominance in government, political analysts said. Instead, they will have to look at some of the larger parties with which they had harsh words during the campaign.

This predicament upset South Africa’s political landscape and placed the ANC at an inflection point. Its potential coalition partners run the ideological gamut, and the party can alienate different sections of its base depending on who it chooses to ally with. That could crash the party.

A big question is whether the ANC will support or shun the new party led by Jacob Zuma, Mr. Ramaphosa’s nemesis and his predecessor as ANC president and leader.

Mr. Zuma — who was forced to resign in 2018 amid a corruption scandal — felt betrayed by the party and Mr. Ramaphosa, his former deputy, and helped form a new party, uMkhonto weSizwe, or MK, named of the ANC’s armed wing in the struggle against apartheid. Mr. Zuma was banned from running for the National Assembly, but MK won nearly 15% of the vote, an unprecedented result for a new party in a national election. The party siphoned vital votes from the ANC and other parties.

“Of course, it really surprised the ANC,” Nomvula Mokonyane, one of the ANC’s top officials, said of MK’s performance. “It went beyond what we expected.”

No one is ruling out a reunion of Mr Zuma and his old friends, now enemies – although this could be humiliating for the ANC. And ruling party leaders may resist one of Mr. Zuma’s basic demands for a coalition deal. Duduzile Zuma, the former president’s daughter, said her father’s party would not cooperate with “Ramaphosa’s ANC”.

Another potential ally of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance, which attracted the second largest share of the vote, nearly 22%. Some ANC members have accused the Democratic Alliance of promoting policies that would essentially return the country to apartheid. Others see the partnership between the two as a natural fit because the Democratic Alliance’s market-based economic outlook aligns so well with Ramaphosa’s.

But joining this grand coalition could be politically risky for Mr Ramaphosa because the Democratic Alliance has steadfastly resisted race-based policies aimed at boosting jobs and wealth. Black people. The Democratic Alliance has also promoted issues that appeal to right-wing whites.

Instead, the ANC can look to the Economic Freedom Fighters, a party founded a decade ago by one of the ANC’s expelled youth leaders, Julius Malema. Mr. Malema’s party did not meet expectations, only winning less than 10% of the votes after winning nearly 11% of the votes last time.

“We want to work with the ANC,” Mr. Malema said at a press conference on Saturday in an unusually soft voice, adding that it would be easier for the ruling party to cooperate given the electoral slide serious. “The ANC, when compromised, will not be arrogant.”

Mr Malema said Mr Ramaphosa was “not our favorite”, but if he continued as president, it would not break the coalition agreement between the two parties.

Analysts say such a partnership could scare off big businesses and international investors because the Economic Freedom Fighters are determined to nationalize mines and businesses. other, while taking land from white owners to redistribute to black South Africans.

But such a coalition would be attractive to some ANC members because Mr Malema is one of their members, and a large section of the party has ideological views consistent with the philosophy of the Fighters. for economic freedom in terms of wealth redistribution.

There are fears that the country is heading towards political chaos that will shift focus away from many of its problems. Coalition governments at the local level have proved unstable, with leaders shifting on a whim and infighting so fierce that lawmakers have done nothing for their constituents.

For many South Africans enduring hardship makes them question whether they have truly liberated from apartheidThese unprecedented times represent an opportunity to reset parity with the transition to democracy a generation ago.

During the election, the slogan “2024 is our year 1994” was spread on social media and on campaign posters, especially among young South Africans.

The landmark election ended the dominance of a party at the forefront of the fight against colonialism that reshaped Africa in the second half of the 20th century. banning the party caused many of its leaders to go into exile around the world. The stories of torture and hardship endured by these party members helped turn many of them into heroes in the eyes of South Africa and the world – a reputation earned by many voters who grew up under apartheid. Racists are always loyal to the party.

But that loyalty has waned as many South Africans have not seen their material conditions significantly improve under ANC leadership for decades – while many of the party’s leaders have amassed huge fortune. Young South Africans Those who did not live under white rule became a growing segment of the electorate, and they tended to care less about the party’s aura than about its performance in government.

The results of the provincial legislature elections have provided the most startling picture yet of the decline of the ANC.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Mr. Zuma’s home province, support for the ruling party increased from 54% in 2019 to 17% of the vote. In Mpumalanga, one of the ANC’s strongholds, support fell almost 20 percentage points to 51%. And in Gauteng, the most populous province that includes Johannesburg, the party lost its 50% majority, falling to 35.

Some of the country’s neighbors in southern Africa ruled by former liberation movements that are close allies of the ANC also have declining electoral support. Analysts say the South African election results could herald the demise of other liberation parties.

Mavuso Msimang, a veteran member of the ANC, said he could feel his party’s collapse as he drove past the long lines outside polling stations on Election Day. He fears the party will be punished for failing to provide basic services, such as electricity.

“I said to myself, ‘You know, these people aren’t lining up to vote to say thank you to the ANC for turning off the lights,'” he said. “It’s clear that these people aren’t going to vote for us. ”

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