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ANC party that freed South Africa from apartheid loses its 30-year majority

Voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
Voters line up to cast their ballot for general elections in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. Copyright Associated Press
Copyright Associated Press
By Euronews with AP
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The African National Congress party lost its parliamentary majority in a historic election result on 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 nearly 99% of votes counted, the once-dominant ANC had received just over 40% in the election on Wednesday, 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 that ran the election.

While opposition parties hailed it as a momentous breakthrough for a country struggling with deep poverty and inequality, the ANC remained the biggest party by some way but will now 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 elects the South African president after national elections.

The result ended the ANC’s dominance three-decade dominance of South Africa’s young democracy, but the way forward promises to be complicated for Africa’s most advanced economy, and there’s no coalition on the table yet.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, was on around 21% . The new MK Party of former President Jacob Zuma, who has turned against the ANC he once led, came third with just over 14% of the vote in the first election it has contested.

Which parties the ANC might approach to co-govern with is the urgent focus now, given Parliament needs to sit and elect a president within 14 days of the final election results being officially declared. A flurry of negotiations were set to take place and they will likely be complicated.

The MK Party said one of their conditions for any agreement was that Ramaphosa is removed as ANC leader and president.

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

More than 50 parties contested the national election, but given how far off a majority the ANC appears to be, it is likely that it will have to approach one of the three main opposition parties.

MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have called for parts of the economy to be nationalised. The centrist Democratic Alliance is viewed as a business-friendly party and analysts say an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcomed by foreign investors.

Despite the uncertainty, South African opposition parties were hailing the new political picture as a much-needed change for the country of 62 million, which is Africa's most developed but also one of the most unequal in the world.

South Africa has widespread poverty and extremely high levels of unemployment and the ANC has struggled to raise the standard of living for millions. The official unemployment rate is 32%, one of the highest in the world, 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 ANC has also been blamed — and apparently punished by voters — for a failure in basic government services that impacts millions and leaves many without water, electricity or proper housing.

“We have said for the last 30 years that the way to rescue South Africa is to break the ANC’s majority and we have done that,” Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen said.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote and turnout is expected to be around 60%, according to figures from the independent electoral commission that runs the election.

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