South African Voters Reject the Party

The African National Congress lost its political monopoly on South Africa after election results on Saturday showed that with almost all of the votes counted, the party had received only about 40 percent, falling short of winning an absolute majority for the first time since vanquishing Africa’s last white-led regime 30 years ago. With South Africans facing one of the world’s highest unemployment rates, shortages of electricity and water, and rampant crime, the governing party still bested its competitors but fell far from the nearly 58 percent of the vote it won in the last election, in 2019. The staggering nosedive for Africa’s oldest liberation movement put one of the continent’s most stable countries and its largest economy onto an uneasy and uncharted course South African Voters Reject the Party.

Will now have two weeks to cobble together a government by partnering with one or more rival parties that have derided it as corrupt and vowed never to form an alliance with it. “It has opened our eyes to say, ‘Look, we are missing something, somewhere. The party’s previous biggest drop from one election to the next was 4.7 percent, in 2019. I didn’t expect Ramaphosa, in five years, to make things worse than what he found, said Khulu Mbatha, an A.N.C. veteran who has been critical of the party for not tackling corruption aggressively enough.

South African Voters Reject the Party That Freed Them From Apartheid

Because of the big gap to reach 50 percent, the A.N.C. cannot just pull in smaller parties that would have allowed it to maintain its dominance in government, political analysts said. Instead, it will have to look to some of the bigger parties it traded bitter barbs with during the campaign. This predicament upends South Africa’s political landscape and places the A.N.C. at an inflection point. Its potential coalition partners run the ideological gamut, and the party could alienate different parts of its base depending on whom it chooses to ally with. That could splinter the party. A big question is whether the A.N.C. will embrace or shun the new party led by Jacob Zuma, Mr. Ramaphosa’s archenemy and predecessor as president and A.N.C. leader.

The party siphoned crucial votes from South African Voters Reject the Party

No one is ruling out a reuniting of Mr. Zuma and his former friends, now foes — though this could be humiliating for the A.N.C. And the governing party’s leaders may resist one of Mr. Zuma’s fundamental demands for a coalition agreement. Duduzile Zuma, a daughter of the former president, said her father’s party would not partner with “the A.N.C. of Ramaphosa.” Another potential ally for the A.N.C. is the Democratic Alliance, which drew the second largest share of the vote, nearly 22 percent. Some A.N.C. members have accused the Democratic Alliance of promoting policies that would essentially take the country back to apartheid. Others view a partnership between the two parties as a natural fit because the Democratic Alliance’s market-based view of the economy aligns closely with Mr. Ramaphosa’s.

“We want to work with the A.N.C.,” an uncharacteristically soft-spoken Mr. Malema said during a news conference on Saturday, adding that the governing party would be easier to work with because of its severe electoral slide. “The A.N.C., when compromised, is not arrogant.” Mr. Malema said that Mr. Ramaphosa “is not our preferred cup of tea,” but if he stayed on as president, it would not be a deal breaker for a coalition between the two parties.

Analysts said that such a partnership could spook big business and international investors because of the Economic Freedom Fighters’ insistence on nationalizing mines and other businesses, and taking land from white owners to redistribute to Black South Africans. The watershed election ended the dominance of a party that spearheaded the fight against colonialism, which reshaped Africa in the second half of the 20th century. The banning of the party by the racist apartheid government sent many of its leaders into exile around the world. Stories of the torture and hardship these party members endured helped turn many of them into heroes in the eyes of South Africa and the world — a reputation that kept many voters who grew up under apartheid undyingly loyal to the party.

But that loyalty waned as many South Africans failed to see their material conditions improve significantly under decades of A.N.C. leadership — while many of the party’s leaders amassed huge wealth. Younger South Africans who did not live under white rule have become a growing part of the electorate, and they tend to be less interested in the party’s aura than its performance in government. The results of the elections for provincial legislatures provided the most startling picture of the A.N.C.’s decline. In KwaZulu-Natal, Mr. Zuma’s home province, the governing party’s support spiraled to 17 percent of the vote from 54 percent in 2019. In Mpumalanga, one of the A.N.C.’s strongholds, it dropped by nearly 20 percentage points to 51 percent. And in Gauteng, the most populous province that includes Johannesburg, the party lost its 50 percent majority, falling to 35.

The result of South Africa’s election could portend the downfall of other liberation parties, analysts said. Mavuso Msimang, a veteran A.N.C. member, said he could sense his party’s demise when he drove past the long lines outside polling stations on Election Day. I said to myself, ‘You know, these people are not queuing to vote to say thank you to the A.N.C. for taking the lights away,’” he said. “It was clear that these people were not going to vote for us.

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