South Africa’s ruling African National Congress had the worst election result since the abolition of apartheid in 1994. In municipal elections, the party received only 46 percent of the vote. This is significantly lower than the previous low, in 2016, when the party of the late Nelson Mandela managed to attract only 54 percent of the electorate.
The ANC has been plagued by corruption scandals in recent years and penalized for failing to find solutions to poor basic services in large parts of the country, and has seen its power dwindle for some time. The fact that support has fallen below 50 per cent is a severe blow to a party that has been by far the largest in South Africa in nearly three decades.
For a long time, it was inconceivable that the ANC would have to share power at the national level in a coalition or be forced to intervene in the opposition. That moment has not yet been reached, but this also has to do with the fact that the main opponents of the ANC are still attracting fewer voters, despite the steady decline of the ANC.
Exceptionally low turnout
This is also the case with these municipal elections. The country’s second party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) – synonymous with the privileged white minority of many South Africans – is stuck in 22 percent of the vote. The third party, Julius Malema’s Radical Left Economic Freedom (EFF) with black followers, also received no more than 10 percent.
Most voters did not go to the polls at all. Election Day was designated as a public holiday to encourage people to vote, but only 47 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots. This is more than 10 percent lower than in previous elections, and is interpreted as a worrying sign about a lack of political commitment by voters.
Coalitions in cities
For the ANC, the results of these municipal elections essentially mean that the party has less influence in the municipal councils and also allows it to supply fewer mayors in large and small cities. President Ramaphosa admits that this will inevitably mean that his party will have to form coalitions in the big cities.
“If we want to make this a new and better era, we as leaders will have to put our differences aside and work together,” the president said. No party has managed to win an absolute majority in no less than sixty municipal councils. Thus, new smaller parties, such as ActionSA in Johannesburg, can play an important role in coalition building.
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