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South Africa heads for coalition as ANC set for big fall

South African political parties geared up for coalition talks on Friday as the governing African National Congress (ANC) looked set to fall well short of a majority in this week’s election, the first time this has happened in 30 years of democracy.

While the party of the late Nelson Mandela looked likely to remain the largest political force, voters appear to have punished the former liberation movement for years of decline.

The ANC had won every previous national election since the historic 1994 vote that ended white minority rule, but over the last decade South Africans have watched the economy stagnate, unemployment and poverty climb and infrastructure crumble, leading to regular power outages.

With results in from 51.92% of polling stations, the ANC had 42.3% of votes, a precipitous drop from the 57.5% of votes it secured in the last national election in 2019.

Projections by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research indicated the ANC would get 40.5% when full results are in.

So far the pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA) was in second place on 23.4%. uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president Jacob Zuma, was at 10.8% and eating into ANC support, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province.

MK had overtaken the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), currently the third biggest party in parliament, which was sitting on 9.6%.

By law the election commission has seven days to release full provisional results, but elections officials have said they are planning for a Sunday announcement.

‘DOOMSDAY COALITION’

Political parties’ share of the vote will determine the number of seats they get in the National Assembly, which then elects the next president.

That could still be the ANC’s leader, incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa. However, an embarrassing showing at the polls risks fuelling a leadership challenge.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday that the ANC still wanted to win a majority. “A coalition is not our plan; it is a consequence. We will deal with that consequence when it happens,” he said.

Investors and the business community have voiced concern over the prospect of the ANC entering a coalition with the EFF, which is calling for the seizure of white-owned land and the nationalisation of mines and banks, or with Zuma’s MK which also talks about land confiscation.

Though the DA says it wants to oust the ruling party, its leader John Steenhuisen has not ruled out a partnership to block what he has called a “doomsday coalition” with the ANC bringing the EFF or MK into government.

(Reuters)

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