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South Africa’s 2024 national elections: What you need to know

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This year marks the 30th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections, but millions of people continue to suffer economic challenges similar to those experienced during apartheid.

Most black South Africans do not earn enough to meet their basic needs. Inequality and unemployment are rising, basic services such as water and electricity are unreliable, racial disparities remain wide, and political corruption has left many people weary of the country’s democracy.

All of this puts the African National Congress, the liberation party that has been in power since the beginning of South Africa’s democracy, under unprecedented pressure as it enters the election on May 29. In the six previous national elections, the party easily won an outright majority in parliament, allowing it to govern on its own terms. Now, however, the party faces a real threat of losing its majority for the first time.

This has forced the ANC to seriously consider introducing new solutions to the many problems plaguing the country. The party must also work to heal internal divisions and address internal corruption.

As one of the most developed economies and stable democracies in Africa, South Africa is keen to play its role as a gateway to the continent for countries around the world. But dire economic conditions have raised fears of social unrest that could undermine stability that is crucial to the country’s reputation and influence on the continent.

Voters choose political parties through their ballots, and the percentage of votes a party receives determines how many seats it receives in the 400-member National Assembly. The more powerful member of each house of parliament then elects the president. This means that a party or alliance of parties with more than 50% of the seats will elect the national leader.

But this year the system has changed.

For the first time, South Africans can run for parliament without being affiliated with a political party. To accommodate the shift, parliament passed a law establishing a second ballot that would include independent candidates. If independent candidates meet a certain voting threshold to enter parliament, it would reduce the number of seats for other parties.

For example, if 10 independent candidates win seats, the remaining 390 seats will be allocated to parties based on the percentage of votes they receive.

The ANC is led by current president Cyril Ramaphosa, who will almost certainly retain his position if the party gets more than 50% of the vote. Whether the party can do this is anyone’s guess.

The ANC won the last national election in 2019 with 57% of the vote, But many opinion polls It is predicted to fall below the 50% threshold. Party leaders remain confident they will retain absolute control, as the ANC’s largest loss from one election to the next was 4.65 percentage points.

Even if the ANC does lose its absolute majority, it may have enough support to form a coalition with other parties and continue to lead the government. But the party may find itself having to make serious policy and governance compromises, depending on how much electoral support it loses and who it partners with.

One source of uncertainty is the unprecedented move by the African National Congress and the country’s former president, Jacob Zuma, to break away from the party and run with a newly formed political organization, the Umkhonto we Sizwe Party. The party has strong poll numbers and performed well in a handful of local elections.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance leads an alliance of 11 parties that has said it will form a government if the ANC fails to retain its majority.

The results are expected to be announced around three days after the vote.

Scandal-plagued former South African president Jacob Zuma runs again

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