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Elections: After election in South Africa: ANC under pressure

Elections: After election in South Africa: ANC under pressure

The ANC admits its huge election loss. It promises a coalition that will bring reforms. But with whom?

The political frustration of South Africans was clearly reflected in the result of the parliamentary elections. For the first time in 30 years, the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), lost its majority. However, forming a coalition government will not be easy. At the same time, concerns about political instability are growing.

After a massive loss of power, the ANC spoke out for the first time this morning. “There is nothing to celebrate,” said Secretary General Fikile Mbalula during a press conference. After 99.91 percent of the votes had been counted, the previous ruling party had 40.21 percent, according to the electoral authority – a loss of around 17 percentage points compared to the last parliamentary elections in 2019.

“The results send a clear message,” said Mbalula. “We want to assure the people of South Africa that we have heard them. We have heard their concerns, their frustrations and their dissatisfaction.” It is the first time in the country’s democratic history that the party of former anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela will no longer govern alone.

Talks with possible coalition partners

The ANC, which despite the heavy election losses received the most votes according to the preliminary results, now wants to form a stable and effective government to implement fundamental economic and social reforms, said the Secretary General. In the coming days, the party will hold coalition talks with the parties that could push forward such an agenda. Mbalula did not say which coalition partners would be possible.

Time is tight: within 14 days of the announcement of the official final result, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday evening, the 400 newly elected parliamentarians must form a government and elect a president.

One possible coalition partner is the economically liberal Democratic Alliance (DA), which is the second strongest party with 21.78 percent according to the preliminary partial results. It is followed by the political newcomer, the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, founded just six months ago by former President Jacob Zuma, which received 14.58 percent of the vote. The Marxist-influenced Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which advocates large-scale expropriation without compensation and nationalization and is led by the former chairman of the ANC youth association, Julius Malema, is at 9.51 percent according to the preliminary partial results.

Concern about political instability

Mbalula dismissed rumours that President Cyril Ramaphosa would resign because of the poor election results. “We knew we were in trouble – it’s not that we didn’t know. We fought very hard,” said Mbalula.

According to political commentators, the ANC’s massive loss of power is due to weak governance. The country of 61 million inhabitants has been suffering for years from an ailing economy, mass unemployment, deep-seated corruption, ailing state-owned companies and a crumbling health and education sector. During his time as president from 2009 to 2018, Zuma and his government systematically undermined the state through embezzlement and nepotism. Despite many promises, Zuma’s successor Ramaphosa was unable to put an end to this.

A newly empowered Zuma

As surprising as it may sound, the ANC lost many votes to the MK, according to analysts. Zuma, who is sometimes called the “Donald Trump of South Africa”, is a popular politician despite numerous corruption allegations and ongoing court cases against him, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. There, the newly formed MK narrowly missed an absolute majority at the provincial level with 45.91 percent of the vote.

A newly empowered Zuma presented himself to the media in the economic metropolis of Johannesburg on Saturday evening and called for a “re-run of the election” due to “very, very serious” election manipulation, but did not substantiate the allegations. Zuma demanded that the electoral authority not announce the final results on Sunday evening as planned.

The ANC, political commentators and local media interpreted Zuma’s statement as a threat. The 82-year-old is considered a populist and troublemaker who can mobilize large crowds within a short period of time. After Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of justice in 2021, violent protests, looting and destruction of infrastructure broke out in South Africa, leaving more than 300 people dead.

Mbalula: Respect democracy

Mbalula called on South Africans to respect the basic rules of democratic elections and to “resist the efforts of those forces (…) that seek to undermine our electoral processes.” The ANC will not tolerate any threat to democracy. “We will work together against those who threaten violence and instability,” said Mbalula.

Which parties will form the first coalition government in South Africa’s history in the coming days 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).

Source: Stern

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