South Africa’s ANC loses 30-year parliamentary majority after election

African National Congress vote share drops to 40 percent, forcing it to seek coalition partners to form government.

A woman votes during the South African elections, on Robben Island, the prison off the coast of Cape Town where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were kept during the rule of the Apartheid regime
A woman votes during the South African elections, on Robben Island, the prison off the coast of Cape Town [File:Nic Bothma/Reuters]

The African National Congress (ANC) party has lost its parliamentary majority 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 30 years ago.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted on Saturday, the once-dominant ANC had received nearly 40 percent in Wednesday’s election, well short of the majority it had held since the famed all-race vote of 1994 that ended apartheid and brought it to power under Nelson Mandela.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had 21.63 percent and uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president and ANC leader Jacob Zuma, managed to grab 14.71 percent – pulling away votes from the ANC.

Opposition parties have hailed the result as a momentous breakthrough for a country struggling with deep poverty and inequality, but the ANC remained the biggest party by some way.

“The way to rescue South Africa is to break the ANC’s majority and we have done that,” said main opposition leader John Steenhuisen.

The final results are still to be formally declared by the independent Electoral Commission that ran the election, but the ANC cannot pass 50 percent.

Reporting from the Results Operation Centre in Midrand, South Africa, Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna said the ANC will try to find a way to form a new government.

“It [ANC] has to find a partner in order to be able to govern. Otherwise it could try to form a minority government which could make it very difficult to pass any form of legislation or advance ANC policy,” he said.

Gwede Mantashe, the ANC chair and current mines and energy minister, told reporters in comments broadcast by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC): “We can talk to everybody and anybody,” dodging a question about who the party was discussing a possible coalition deal with.

Political parties’ shares of the vote determine their seats in the country’s National Assembly, which elects the nation’s president.

President Cyril Ramaphosa can in theory still keep his job, as the former liberation movement was on course to get about twice as many votes as the next party. But he will be weakened and could face calls to quit both from opposition parties and critics in the deeply divided ANC.

On Friday, however, a top ANC official backed him to stay on as party leader, and analysts say he has no obvious successor.

A deal to keep the ANC in the presidency could involve opposition backing in exchange either for cabinet posts or for more control of parliament, perhaps even the speaker.

The election commission has pencilled in a final results announcement for Sunday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies