South Africa: Mandela’s ANC party loses absolute majority

South Africa: Mandela’s ANC party loses absolute majority

South Africa is facing a turning point. Nelson Mandela’s former party ruled alone for exactly 30 years. Now it is losing its absolute majority – by a landslide.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), has lost its absolute majority in the parliamentary elections. For the party of former anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela, this means more than just a massive electoral debacle. For the first time in the country’s 30-year democratic history, the ANC will no longer govern alone. For the first time, it will have to form a coalition. The big question is: with whom?

With almost 98 percent of the votes counted, the ANC is at 40.11 percent, according to the National Electoral Commission (IEC). This represents a dramatic loss of power of around 17 percentage points for the ruling party, which received 57.5 percent of the vote in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

The political dominance of the ANC has never been questioned since the end of the racist apartheid era in 1994. The former liberation movement has never had to make political compromises. The time for the coalition formation that is now necessary is tight: within 14 days of the official announcement of the election results by the IEC, the 400 newly elected parliamentarians must form a government and elect a president.

According to political commentators, two parties are the main possible coalition partners: Firstly, the economically liberal Democratic Alliance (DA), which, according to the preliminary partial results, has 21.71 percent. The DA is ideologically far removed from the ANC, but has already proven itself at the provincial level: it has governed the Western Cape province, where the tourist metropolis of Cape Town is located, since 2009.

German companies between hope and concern

Aleix Montana, political analyst at risk consulting firm Verisk Maplecroft, believes a coalition between the ANC and DA is likely despite different ideologies. Such an alliance would be welcomed by Western partners and foreign investors, said Montana.

German companies interested in the South African market are torn between hope and concern, said Christoph Kannengießer, CEO of the Africa Association. “A loss of the ANC majority can mean opportunities, but also risks for German companies,” said Kannengießer, depending on which coalition partner the ANC chooses.

According to analysts, the other likely option for a coalition is a merger of the ANC with the Marxist-influenced Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which advocates large-scale expropriation without compensation and nationalization and, according to the preliminary partial results, is at 9.37 percent. Since the EFF is led by the former chairman of the ANC youth association, Julius Malema, the ANC and EFF are relatively close politically.

Such a coalition would scare off investors – not a good sign for South Africa’s stagnating economy and mass unemployment, warned analyst Montana. In addition, previous coalitions between the ANC and the EFF at the local level have proven to be unstable. Andreas Freytag, professor of economic policy at the University of Jena and honorary professor at the South African University of Stellenbosch, also describes a possible ANC-EFF coalition as “poison for the country’s urgently needed economic development.”

Closely linked to Russia and China

The decision is also relevant for Germany and Europe. Despite its struggling economy, South Africa is the continent’s strongest economy. Politically and economically, it is considered the “gateway to Africa”, a country with access to a continent that is becoming increasingly important internationally due to its raw material reserves needed for the energy transition. South Africa is also the only African member of the group of major economies (G20). Although South Africa has good relations with Western countries, the government is closely linked to Russia and China.

In the Gaza war, South Africa takes a strong pro-Palestinian stance. It is suing Israel before the International Court of Justice and accusing it of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The ANC can attribute its historic loss of power to its poor government record. The 61 million inhabitants of the country at the southern tip of Africa have much to complain about: ailing state-owned companies, regular power cuts, poor education and health systems, high crime rates and deep-seated corruption. According to analysts, the ANC’s massive loss of votes is also due to the founding of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, which was founded just six months ago by former President Jacob Zuma and received 14.8 percent of the vote. However, due to internal disputes, a coalition with the MK is hardly conceivable.

ANC: Will Ramaphosa stay?

The ANC is currently silent. The ANC’s deputy secretary general, Momvula Mikonyane, only assured in a brief press briefing yesterday that President Cyril Ramaphosa would not resign. However, it is now unclear whether Ramaphosa will be re-elected by parliament for a fifth term as head of state. The 71-year-old was once considered a beacon of hope for the rainbow nation. In 2018, he ousted Zuma, who had systematically exploited the state for many years. Today, however, Ramaphosa is accused of having been largely incapable of taking action during his six-year term in office due to intra-party power games.

DA leader John Steenhuisen described the result of the parliamentary election as a “win for South Africa’s democracy”, even though the formation of a government is still open. “In order to save South Africa, the ANC’s absolute majority had to be broken, and we have achieved that,” said Steenhuisen.

Source: Stern

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