Home News Early election results show South Africans no longer support ruling party

Early election results show South Africans no longer support ruling party

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South Africans are nervous as the results of their national election came out on Thursday, with early polls showing the African National Congress, which has been in power for three decades, faring poorly.

While official results are not expected until the end of this week, forecasts suggest the African National Congress (ANC) could take less than 50 per cent of the vote, down from 57.5 per cent in the last election five years ago.

This means that for the first time the ANC will need to form a coalition with one or more rivals to remain in power. In South Africa’s parliamentary system, ANC leader President Cyril Ramaphosa needs the support of opposition members to run for a second term.

A weakened ANC would dramatically change South Africa’s politics and policies, moving the country from a single-party government to one of fragile coalitions. This strategy worked well for the ANC in smaller cities, but it is dangerous in larger cities like Johannesburg, leading to political infighting.

With more than a third of constituencies counted, preliminary results put the ANC at 43 per cent, still lagging in key provinces where it won handily in the last election.

The ANC’s initial results came mainly from rural areas that have remained loyal to the party. In Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, only 12% of constituencies had confirmed their results as of Thursday.

There are 51 opposition parties vying for votes. The largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, is led by John Steenhuisen, a white politician in a black-majority country. Before the election, the Democratic Alliance formed an alliance with some smaller opposition parties.

Without the support of the DA, the ANC may have to form an alliance with the second-largest opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, a left-wing party with strong support among young voters. Its leader, Julius Malema, formed the EFF in 2013 after being expelled from the ANC Youth League.

Former President Jacob Zuma’s new party, MK, which broke away from the ANC and is gaining traction in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, has also emerged. Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, recently said MK would not work with Ramaphosa.

Some analysts have not ruled out the possibility that the ANC could win more than 50 percent of the vote. The party could also regain support in provinces such as the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, giving it greater leverage in negotiations with opposition parties.

The election comes 30 years after the end of apartheid and at a time when South Africa is facing a sluggish economy, high youth unemployment and low national sentiment.

Long lines formed outside polling stations on Wednesday, election day. The Electoral Commission acknowledged that new voting rules and extra ballots caused delays. However, by 9 p.m., thousands of South Africans were still queuing when polling stations closed, braving the chilly autumn winds for their chance to vote. The Electoral Commission said early data showed turnout was higher than in the last national election in 2019.

“We’ve had enough,” said Isabel Olatunji as she waited at a polling station in a northern suburb of Johannesburg, pushing her young son in a stroller. Ms. Olatunji, 32, said she was “60 percent optimistic” that the election would bring change, or at least “move things forward.”

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