The ANC party that liberated South Africa from apartheid is losing its 30-year majority in a historic election

JOHANNESBURG — The African National Congress The party lost its parliamentary majority on Saturday in a historic election result that puts South Africa on a new political path for the first time since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule three decades ago.

Now that more than 99% of the votes have been counted, the once dominant ANC had received just over 40% in Wednesday's election, well short of the majority it had achieved since the famous all-race vote of 1994, which ended apartheid and brought it to power under Nelson Mandela.

The final results have yet to be formally announced by the Independent Electoral Commission, but the ANC cannot reach 50% and an era of coalition government – ​​also a first for South Africa – looms.

The election commission said it would formally announce the results on Sunday.

While opposition parties welcomed the outcome as a momentous breakthrough for a country struggling with deep poverty and inequality, the ANC remained in some ways the largest party.

However, the unprecedented decline in support means that the country will now likely have to look for a coalition partner or partners to remain in government and re-elect President Cyril Ramaphosa for a second and final term. Parliament must convene within fourteen days of the election results being announced to elect the South African president.

“The way to save South Africa is to break the ANC majority and we have done that,” said John Steenhuisen, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Alliance party.

Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, said the ANC's “right to be the only dominant party” was over.

The road ahead threatens to become complicated Africa's most advanced economyand there is no coalition on the table yet. The three main opposition parties and many more smaller parties were in the mix when negotiations began.

“We can talk to anyone,” ANC president Gwede Mantashe said on national broadcaster SABC.

Steenhuisen's Democratic Alliance won about 21% of the votes. The new MK party of former president Jacob Zuma, who turned against the ANC he once led, came third with just over 14% of the vote in the country's first elections. The Economic Freedom Fighters were fourth with just over 9%.

More than 50 parties contested the elections and many of them won small shares, but the three main opposition parties seem the most obvious that the ANC is getting closer.

Electoral Commission Chairman Mosotho Moepya said it is a time for everyone to remain calm “and for leaders to lead and for voices of reason to continue to prevail.”

“This is a moment that we need to manage and manage well,” he said.

Steenhuisen said his party is open to talks with the ANC, as is Malema. The MK party said one of their conditions for an agreement was for Ramaphosa to be removed as ANC leader and president. That underscored the fierce personal political battle between Zuma, who resigned as South Africa's president in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations, and Ramaphosa, who replaced him.

“We are willing to negotiate with the ANC, but not with Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC,” MK party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela said.

MK and extreme left Economic freedom fighters have called for the nationalization of parts of the economy.

The centrist Democratic Alliance, or DA, is considered business-friendly. Analysts say an ANC-DA coalition would be more welcomed by foreign investors.

DA has been the most critical opposition party for years and does not share the ANC's pro-Russian and pro-Chinese foreign policy. South Africa will take over the presidency of the Group of Twenty industrialized and emerging countries next year.

An ANC-DA coalition “would be a marriage between two drunk people in Las Vegas. It will never work,” Gayton McKenzie, the leader of the smaller Patriotic Alliance party, told South African media.

DA says an ANC-MK-EFF deal would be a 'doomsday coalition' as MK and EFF are made up of former ANC figures and would pursue the same failed policies.

The three opposition parties had a combined share greater than that of the ANC, but it is very unlikely that they will all work together. The DA was also part of a pre-election agreement with other smaller parties to potentially form a coalition.

Amid all this, there was no celebration among ordinary South Africans, but rather a realization that a difficult political road lay ahead. In the Daily Maverick newspaper, a South African scratched his head with the words: “What does this mean for our future?” on the frontpage. The Die Burger newspaper led with an image of a dozen political party logos being put into a meat grinder.

South African opposition parties were united in one thing: something had to change in the country of 62 million inhabitants, the most developed country in Africa, but also one of the most unequal in the world.

The official unemployment rate is 32% and poverty disproportionately affects black people, who make up 80% of the population and have been at the core of the ANC's support for years. The number of violent crimes is also alarmingly high.

The ANC has also been blamed – and now punished by voters – for the failure of basic government services that affects millions of the poor, leaving many without water, electricity or proper housing. More recently, a national electricity crisis that has led to nationwide blackouts has angered South Africans across the board.

The ANC has seen a steady decline in its support over the past two decades, albeit by about three to five percentage points per election. This time, the country fell by 17 percentage points from the 57.5% it gained in 2019, a stunning result in the context of the country.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote, and the electoral commission estimated turnout to be around 60%.

People lined up well into the cold winter night on election day and hours after the polls officially closed, with some votes cast at 3am the next day. That indicated the desire of many to have their say, but also reflected one of them South Africa's inherent problems – some polling stations were delayed due to power outages, leaving them in the dark.

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Gerald Imray reported from Cape Town.

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AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa

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