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South African Parties Head For Coalition Talks As ANC’s Support Suffers Historic Plunge


South African Parties Head For Coalition Talks As ANC’s Support Suffers Historic Plunge

South African parties are entering coalition talks as the ANC faces historic shortfall, potentially ending its 30-year majority.

South African political parties are preparing for coalition talks on Friday as the ruling African National Congress (ANC) appears set to fall short of a majority for the first time in 30 years.

The ANC, the party of the late Nelson Mandela, is likely to remain the largest political force but has been punished by voters for years of decline.

With results from 57.3% of polling stations counted, the ANC has secured 41.9% of the vote, a significant drop from the 57.5% it achieved in the 2019 national election. The pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA) is in second place with 23.4%, while the new party uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), led by former President Jacob Zuma, has garnered 11.3%, eroding ANC support particularly in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

MK has surpassed the Marxist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), currently the third-largest party in parliament, which holds 9.5% of the vote.

“I think it’s a very good day for South Africa. We said for the last 30 years the way to rescue South Africa was to break the ANC majority. We’ve done that,” said DA leader John Steenhuisen at the results centre in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.

The ANC has won every national election since the historic 1994 vote that ended white minority rule. However, over the last decade, South Africans have seen the economy stagnate, unemployment and poverty increase, and infrastructure deteriorate, leading to regular power outages.

There is intense speculation about which party or parties the ANC may approach to form a coalition and remain in government, or what negotiations might be happening behind closed doors. When asked if his party was in coalition talks, Steenhuisen replied, “no.”

He added, “We’ve got to wait for the results to end before we can start with any major discussions but my first port of call is going to be with my Multi-Party Charter conference,” referring to an alliance of opposition parties formed before the election.

The uncertainty has affected the government bond market, with the prices of South Africa’s main internationally traded bonds falling by as much as 1.3 cents on the U.S. dollar. This decline, the third in a row, has left the bonds at their lowest level in almost a month.

Projections by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research suggest the ANC will secure 40.5% when all results are in. The ruling party’s performance looks particularly poor in KwaZulu-Natal, where MK has 44.1% compared to the ANC’s 18.8%, according to partial results as of 08:30 (GMT).

By law, the election commission has seven days to release full provisional results, but officials have indicated they plan for an announcement on Sunday. Early on Friday, a technical problem caused the results page on the electoral commission’s website to go blank for about two hours. The data reappeared shortly after 07:00 (GMT).

“The data in the data centre remains intact and the results have not been compromised … Result processing continues unaffected,” the commission said in a statement.

Political parties’ share of the vote will determine the number of seats they receive in the National Assembly, which then elects the next president. Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa could still be re-elected, but a poor showing at the polls may fuel a leadership challenge.

Investors and the business community have expressed concern over the possibility of the ANC forming a coalition with the EFF, which advocates for the seizure of white-owned farms and the nationalisation of mines and banks, or with Zuma’s MK, which also supports land confiscation.

Although the DA aims to oust the ruling party, Stenhouse has not ruled out a partnership to prevent what he calls a “doomsday coalition” that could bring the EFF or MK into government.

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