South Africa’s ANC Faces Historic Loss of Parliamentary Majority

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave party flags during their final rally ahead of the upcoming election at FNB stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Alaister Russell/File Photo

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), is poised to lose its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years, according to partial results from Wednesday’s parliamentary election. With 57% of voting districts counted, the ANC leads with 42% of the vote, followed by the Democratic Alliance (DA) with 23%.

The uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK Party), led by former President Jacob Zuma, has garnered 11%, while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party has nearly 10%. Final results are expected over the weekend.

On Friday morning, the online system streaming the election results crashed, causing poll screens to show zero results. South Africa’s electoral commission apologized for the issue and later restored the service, assuring the public that the poll results had not been compromised.

Many voters hold the ANC responsible for the country’s high levels of corruption, crime, and unemployment. Projections by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the News24 website indicate the ANC’s final vote share will be around 42%, a significant drop from the 57% it secured in the 2019 election. This would necessitate a coalition with one or more parties to form a parliamentary majority.

The DA advocates for liberal economic policies, while both the EFF and MK Party support greater state intervention and nationalization. The choice of coalition partner will significantly influence South Africa’s future direction.

It remains uncertain whether President Cyril Ramaphosa will stay in power, as he may face pressure to resign if the ANC’s final vote falls below 45%, according to Prof. William Gumede, chairman of the Democracy Works Foundation. “The ANC could turn him into a scapegoat, and a faction within the party might push for his replacement by his deputy, Paul Mashatile. The EFF and MK are also likely to demand his resignation before agreeing to any coalition with the ANC,” Prof. Gumede said.

In South Africa, voters do not directly elect the president. Instead, they vote for members of parliament, who then elect the president.

Initial results indicate the African National Congress (ANC) is suffering significant losses to the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, where former President Jacob Zuma’s party is leading with 43% of the vote compared to the ANC’s 21%.

Zuma delivered a major blow to the ANC when he announced in December that he was leaving the party to campaign for MK. KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home region and the province with the second-highest number of votes, is crucial for determining whether the ANC retains its parliamentary majority.

Despite being barred from running for parliament due to a conviction for contempt of court, Zuma’s name still appeared on the ballot as the MK leader. If MK wins KwaZulu-Natal, it would represent a “major upset” and signal the “potential decimation” of the ANC in the province, according to Prof. William Gumede.

The ANC also risks losing its majority in Gauteng, South Africa’s economic heartland, where the party currently has 36% of the vote compared to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) 29%.

Wednesday’s election saw long lines of voters at polling stations late into the night across the country.

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