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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    ANC party that freed South Africa from apartheid loses its majority in landmark election

    The latest election results are displayed at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday May 31, 2024. South Africa is heading closer to the reality of a national coalition government for the first time as partial election results put the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC), short of a majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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

    With more than 99% of votes counted, the once-dominant ANC had received just over 40% in Wednesday's election, well short of the majority it had held since the famed all-race vote of 1994 that ended apartheid and brought it to power under Nelson Mandela.

    The final results are still to be formally declared by the Independent Electoral Commission, but the ANC cannot pass 50% and an era of coalition government — also a first for South Africa — is looming.

    The electoral commission said it would formally declare the results on Sunday.

    While opposition parties hailed the outcome as a momentous breakthrough for a country struggling with deep poverty and inequality, the ANC remained the biggest party by some way.

    However, the unprecedented slump in its support means it will now likely need to look for a coalition partner or partners to remain in the government and reelect President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second and final term. Parliament must meet to elect the South African president within 14 days after the election result is declared.

    “The way to rescue South Africa is to break the ANC’s majority and we have done that,” said John Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party.

    Julius Malema, the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters opposition party, said that the ANC's “entitlement of being the sole dominant party” was over.

    The way forward threatens to be complicated for Africa’s most advanced economy, and there’s no coalition on the table yet. The three main opposition parties and many more smaller ones were in the mix as the bargaining begins.

    “We can talk to anybody and everybody,” ANC Chairman Gwede Mantashe said on national broadcaster SABC.

    Steenhuisen's Democratic Alliance was on around 21% of the vote. The new MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma, who has turned against the ANC he once led, was third with just over 14% of the vote in the first election it has contested. The Economic Freedom Fighters was fourth with just over 9%.

    More than 50 parties contested the election, many of them winning tiny shares, but the three main opposition parties appear to be the most obvious for the ANC to approach.

    Electoral commission Chairman Mosotho Moepya said it was a time for everyone to keep calm “and for leaders to lead and for voices of reason to continue to prevail.”

    "This is a moment we need to manage and manage well," he said.

    Steenhuisen said his party is open to discussions with the ANC, as did Malema. The MK Party said one of their conditions for any agreement was that Ramaphosa is removed as ANC leader and president. That underlined the fierce personal political battle between Zuma, who resigned as South African president under a cloud of corruption allegations in 2018, and Ramaphosa, who replaced him.

    “We are willing to negotiate with the ANC, but not the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa," MK Party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela said.

    MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have called for parts of the economy to be nationalized.

    The centrist Democratic Alliance, or DA, is viewed as business-friendly. Analysts say an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcomed by foreign investors.

    DA has been the most critical opposition party for years and doesn't share the ANC's pro-Russia and pro-China foreign policy. South Africa takes over the presidency of the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging-market nations next year.

    An ANC-DA coalition "would be a marriage of two drunk people in Las Vegas. It will never work,” Gayton McKenzie, the leader of the smaller Patriotic Alliance party, told South African media.

    DA says an ANC-MK-EFF agreement would be a “doomsday coalition” given MK and EFF are made up of former ANC figures and would pursue the same failed policies.

    The three opposition parties had a combined share that was bigger than the ANC, but they are highly unlikely to all work together. The DA was also part of a preelection agreement with other smaller parties to potentially form a coalition.

    Amid it all, there was no sense of celebrations from ordinary South Africans, but rather the realization that a rocky political road was ahead. The Daily Maverick newspaper had a South African scratching his head with the words: “What Does It Mean For Our Future?” on its front page. The Die Burger newspaper led with an image of about a dozen political parties' logos going into a meat grinder.

    South African opposition parties were united in one thing — something had to change in the country of 62 million, which is Africa's most developed but also one of the most unequal in the world.

    The official unemployment rate is 32% and the poverty disproportionately affects Black people, who make up 80% of the population and have been the core of the ANC's support for years. The violent crime rate is also appallingly high.

    The ANC has also been blamed — and now punished by voters — for a failure in basic government services that impacts millions of poor, and leaves many without water, electricity or proper housing. More recently, a national electricity crisis that led to nationwide power blackouts angered South Africans across the board.

    The ANC has seen a steady decline in its support over the last 20 years, but by around three to five percentage points each election. It dropped 17 percentage points this time from the 57.5% it won in 2019, a staggering outcome in the context of the country.

    Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote, and turnout was expected to be around 60%, according to the electoral commission.

    People lined up deep into the cold winter night on election day and hours after the official poll closing time, with some votes being cast at 3 a.m. the following day. That indicated the desire from many to have their say, but also reflected one of South Africa's inherent problems — some voting stations had delays because of electricity outages plunging them into the dark.

    Voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. South Africans began voting Wednesday in an election seen as their country’s most important in 30 years, and one that could put their young democracy in unknown territory. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Observers look on as election results are displayed at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday May 31, 2024. South Africa is heading closer to the reality of a national coalition government for the first time as partial election results put the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC), short of a majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    People queue to cast their votes at a polling station during general elections, in Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. South Africans have begun voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put their young democracy in unknown territory. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)
    Voters line up to cast their ballot for general election in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Electoral workers prepare to open the voting station as voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    A voter fills out a ballot paper during general elections in Nkandla, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, Wednesday May 29, 2024. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    An officer watches on as an inmate inserts his ballot paper into the ballot box at the polling station at Kgoši Mampuru Correctional Facility in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. South Africans voted Wednesday at schools, community centers, and in large white tents set up in open fields in an election seen as their country’s most important in 30 years. It could put the young democracy in unknown territory. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    MK Party supporters celebrate in the middle of the street in Mahlbnathini village in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, on Thursday May 30, 2024. MK Party is currently leading in the provincial poll against the ANC, who've held the stronghold in the province for the last 20 years. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    People watch as former president of the A.N.C. and South Africa Jacob Zuma, casts his ballot on Wednesday May 29, 2024 during general elections in Nkandla, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    Voters wait outside a poling station on Wednesday May 29, 2024, during general elections in KwaMfana, South Africa. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    A woman casts her ballot on Wednesday May 29, 2024, during general elections in KwaMfana, South Africa. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    South African President Cyril Ramaphosa greets African National Congress supporters at the Siyanqoba rally at FNB stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday, May 25, 2024. South African will vote in the 2024 general elections on May 29. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
    South African President Cyril Ramaphosa casts his ballot Wednesday May 29, 2024 for the general elections in Soweto, South Africa. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
    Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, Julius Malema, is surrounded by the press at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday, June 1, 2024. With nearly all votes counted in the elections, the African National Congress (ANC) party that freed South Africa from apartheid has lost its 30-year majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Former president and now leader of the MK Party, Jacob Zuma, speaks at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday, June 1, 2024. The African National Congress party has lost its parliamentary majority in a historic election result that puts South Africa on a new political path for the first time since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule 30 years ago. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Supporters of Inkatha Freedom Party attend an election rally in Richards Bay, near Durban, South Africa, Sunday, May 26, 2024, in anticipation of the 2024 general elections scheduled for May 29. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    Leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance John Steenhuisen, right, shakes hands with ANC's Chairman. Gwede Mantashe, left, on a visit to the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday May 31, 2024. South Africa is heading closer to the reality of a national coalition government for the first time as partial election results put the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC), short of a majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance John Steenhuisen visits the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday May 31, 2024. South Africa is heading closer to the reality of a national coalition government for the first time as partial election results put the ruling African Nation Congress (ANC), short of a majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    Results are displayed at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midland, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday May 31, 2024. South Africa is heading closer to the reality of a national coalition government for the first time as partial election results put the ruling African Nation Congress, fourth from top left, well short of a majority. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
    A woman casts her ballot at a polling station, during general elections in Eshowe, South Africa, Wednesday May 29, 2024. South Africans are voting in an election seen as their country's most important in 30 years, and one that could put them in unknown territory in the short history of their democracy, the three-decade dominance of the African National Congress party being the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people — half of whom are estimated to be living in poverty. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
    Former president and now leader of the MK Party, Jacob Zuma, arrives at the Results Operation Centre (ROC) in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday, June 1, 2024. The African National Congress party has lost its parliamentary majority in a historic election result that puts South Africa on a new political path for the first time since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule 30 years ago. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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