S.Africa set for political shake-up after historic voteFri, 31 May 2024 08:46:55 GMT

South Africa’s ruling ANC was on track to score its worst electoral result ever on Friday, with early tallies showing voters deserted the party in droves, ending its 30-year political dominance.If the African National Congress (ANC) is confirmed as dropping below 50 percent of the vote, it would force the party to seek coalition partners to be re-elected to form a new government.That would mark an historic evolution in the country’s democratic journey, as the party has enjoyed an absolute parliamentary majority since 1994.With more than 55 percent of votes in Wednesday’s general election counted, the ANC was leading but with a score of 42 percent — well below the 57 percent it won in 2019.As votes continued to be validated, data from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) held a secure second place with 24 percent of preferences.  It was followed by former president Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) on 11 percent and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) on 10 percent. The final results are expected in the next couple of days.IEC’s website was briefly down on Friday due to technical problems. “The data in the data centre remains intact and the results have not been compromised,” the IEC said, after apologising for the issue. “All services have since been restored and the leaderboard is working normal. Result processing continues unaffected.”Once led by late anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, the ANC has dominated South Africa’s democracy with an unbroken run of five presidents from the party.- ‘Unpredictable partners’ – The ANC remains respected for its leading role in overthrowing white minority rule and its progressive social welfare and black economic empowerment policies are credited by supporters with helping millions of black families out of poverty.But over three decades of almost unchallenged rule, its leadership has been implicated in a series of large-scale corruption scandals.The continent’s most industrialised economy has languished, and crime and unemployment figures have hit record highs.Voting was marked by hours-long queues in many districts, which in some cases forced polls to remain open well beyond the scheduled closing time. Experts are split over which party the ANC would prefer as bedfellows and on whether the poor performance threatened President Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership.Some have predicted the party will patch up ties with one or both of the radical left groups led by former ANC figures: firebrand Julius Malema’s EFF or Zuma’s MK.In a major upset, the latter was leading with 44 percent of votes in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, a key electoral battleground.”The MK has really eaten into the ANC’s vote,” Siphamandla Zondi, a politics professor from the University of Johannesburg, told AFP.Others, like analyst and author Susan Booysen, said the rift between Ramaphosa and Zuma — who has long been bitter about the way he was forced out of office in 2018 — was “too far reaching” to mend.The ANC might prefer the centre-right DA, which pledged to “rescue South Africa” through better governance, free market reforms and privatisations, to the leftist EFF, which is perceived as “too erratic” and “unpredictable” in its demands, she added.