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PoliticsSouth Africa

South Africa election: ANC faces coalition government

Thuso Khumalo in Johannesburg
May 31, 2024

With more than 66% of the votes counted as of Friday afternoon, the ruling African National Congress party will likely lose the majority for the first time.

People walk past signs advertising different political parties in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The ANC will most likely need to form a coalition for the first time in its historyImage: Themba Hadebe/AP Photo/picture alliance

Provisional election results show the country's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is in the lead with 41.8% of the total vote. As of 2 p.m. CET on Friday, approximately 66% of votes from around the country had been counted and verified. The final results are expected over the weekend. South Africa's election took place on May 29, with polls officially closing at 9 p.m. local time.

Although these are merely partial results as votes continue to be validated, many analysts are predicting the ANC, which currently rules the country, will not hold the majority in parliament for the first time in 30 years. Losing the majority would push the ANC into a coalition with other parties.

Political analyst Sandile Swana told DW that considering the ANC's historical trends, "it is likely to end up at about 42%." 

The ANC won 57.5% of the votes in the previous election in 2019.

Following the ANC is the Democratic Alliance (DA) party with around 23% of the votes, according to the partial count. Meanwhile, former President Jacob Zuma's fledgling party, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), which was formed only months ago, fared surprisingly well. According to current preliminary results, the party has taken 11% of the vote nationwide, putting it in third.

People dance and celebrate on the streets.
Supporters of the MK party celebrated on the streets of a village in rural KwaZulu-NatalImage: Emilio Morenatti/AP Photo/picture alliance

Coalition speculation in South Africa

If the ANC does not reach the 50.1% it needs to rule alone, the party will need to partner up with an opposition party or parties to form a governing coalition. Speculation abounds with regards to possible coalition government scenarios. Yet at the moment, parties in the running are keeping their cards close to their chests and are refraining from stating any possible collaborations.

Despite many parties vowing not to form a coalition with the ANC, political analyst Sandile Swana told DW anything is possible at this point.

"Some of the more hardened ANC members might say the ANC must go out and recruit smaller parties," she told DW. 

Swana said the ANC could also form a grand coalition with the Democratic Alliance (DA), but that this would have "it's own political consequences."

Swana points out another solution, too: "The other option is to form a left-wing coalition, which has MK as a prominent feature, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), United Democratic Movement (UDM) and other left-leaning parties, including the ANC."

Unemployment one of top concerns for South Africans

Success for Jacob Zuma's MK

MK Secretary General Sihle Ngubane said she was pleased with her party's performance.

"It feels very good," Ngubane told DW. "We knew what we were doing on the ground. We were campaigning; we were telling people the truth about what MK is about, and we were telling them the truth about what the current government is about."

Votes are counted and verified at polling stations around the country, in the presence of party agents and observers. The results are then publicly displayed outside each polling station before being transmitted to the National Results Centre in Midrand in Gauteng province.

At the National Results Centre, the results from voting stations are added together and audited by a team of independent auditors before being announced by South Africa's Independent Election Committee (IEC).

Initially, the results were to be announced seven days after the election, but IEC Communications Deputy Manager David Mandaha says it will likely happen much sooner: "We believe that come the weekend, we should be able to say we are ready to announce the results." 

People wait in a line to cast their votes in Durban.
Some voters waited in line for hours on election dayImage: Alaister Russell/REUTERS

Challenges on election day

The voting process on Wednesday was marred by a number of glitches that drew criticism from political parties and South African citizens. Some voting devices malfunctioned, while a number of polling stations lost power.

Some polling stations, particularly in Johannesburg and Durban, had extremely long wait times. Although the polls officially closed at 9 p.m. local time, many people were still waiting in line to vote, with some polling stations staying open later to accommodate cues of voters. Charmain Shabalala, a student at the University of Johannesburg was still in the queue two hours after polls closed and refused to give up.

"We are tired of just a whole lot of things that are happening in South Africa. We just want change and we want to vote for change," Shabalala said.

Despite the problems, external election observation groups have praised the election process in South Africa. Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who leads the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy for Africa, which observed the elections in South Africa, said: "I trust the electoral commission of South Africa. It's one of the best in Africa. They are doing very well. Yes, there are some areas they need to look at. But they are doing well so far." 

Edited by: Sarah Hucal

DW correspondent Thuso Khumalo in Johannesburg.
Thuso Khumalo Thuso Khumalo is a multimedia and broadcast journalist based in Johannesburg, South Africa.@thusokhums