ANC suffers major loss in landmark elections, now prepares for coalition talks

The ANC suffered a heavy blow in the parliamentary election in South Africa for the first time in 30 years. The uMkhonto weSizwe party has emerged as the third-largest party in the country

June 03, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Cyril Ramaphosa during ANC pre-election rally. Source: Cyril Ramaphosa/X

For the first time in 30 years, the African National Congress (ANC) lost the absolute majority in the parliamentary elections in South Africa. The ANC suffered an unexpectedly hard blow, securing just around 40% of the vote, down from approximately 58% in the 2019 election. This result translates into 159 seats in the National Assembly, a loss of 71 seats.

ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa admitted the party was “dented” by the results but said the outcome reflects the democratic nature of the country’s political processes. He called on other political parties to prioritize unity and national interest as he launched the first steps toward forming a coalition.

The conservative Democratic Alliance (DA) secured the second-largest share of votes (close to 22%), consistent with past election results. The party, mostly associated with a white conservative voter base, secured 75% of the votes cast outside of South Africa. The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the third largest in the previous National Assembly, secured 9.5% of the votes.

The biggest gain was achieved by the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party, led by former president Jacob Zuma. This party, new to the National Assembly, managed to secure over 14% of the votes, significantly more than predicted by most polls ahead of the election and early results.

Read more: Uncertainty reigns as results continue to trickle in from South Africa’s general elections

In the coming weeks, coalition talks are expected to continue leading up to the first meeting of the newly elected National Assembly, where the new president of South Africa should also be elected.

All major opposition parties indicated they would consider a coalition with the ANC under certain conditions. Members of the DA leadership stated they would choose “the least bad option,” which, for them, could mean forming a coalition with the ANC rather than seeing them walking away with the EFF or MK Party. However, the DA opposes key ANC policies, such as the National Health Insurance and the Black empowerment program.

The MK Party has stated it would negotiate a coalition if the ANC drops Ramaphosa. The relationship between Ramaphosa and Zuma has been tense since Ramaphosa succeeded Zuma as president, and these tensions remain high. The conversation could become even more complicated as the MK Party alleged election day irregularities, calling on the electoral commission to delay announcing the results and a rerun of the election.

As coalition talks proceed, all parties will need to consider the main grievances that brought people to the polls. South Africa is struggling with widespread unemployment, poverty, high living costs, and corruption, which has undermined faith in political parties.