South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa faces poor ANC election results

“The results reflect the will of the people,” says President Ramaphosa

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted that his African National Congress (ANC) party has suffered a challenging election result, with the party losing its majority for the first time since the end of apartheid 30 years ago.

The ANC, once led by Nelson Mandela, won 159 seats in the 400-seat parliament in Wednesday’s election, up from 230 in the previous assembly.

Mr Ramaphosa still described the results as a victory for democracy, calling on rival parties to find common ground – apparently preparing for coalition talks.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party has said it is open to coalition talks with Mr Ramaphosa, but opposes many of his government’s key priorities.

The Electoral Commission announced on Sunday that with all votes counted, the ANC was down from 40% in the previous election to 58%.

That’s lower than the party’s feared worst-case scenario of 45%, analysts said. The ANC must now enter into a coalition to form the next government.

“Our people have spoken, whether we like it or not, they have,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

“Leaders of political parties, all those who hold positions of responsibility in society, we have heard the voice of our people and must respect their wishes.”

He added that voters want parties to find common ground.

“Through their votes, they have clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that our democracy is strong and enduring,” he said.

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South Africa’s political parties will aim to forge a coalition agreement within two weeks of the new parliament sitting for the first time.

The centre-right DA is the second largest party in parliament with 87 seats and has said it is open to coalition talks.

“We call on all those who love our Constitution and all that it represents to put aside petty politics and narrow sectarian interests and join hands now,” said DA President Jan Steenhuizen.

However, his party opposes two of the ANC’s main priorities – its black empowerment policies aimed at giving black people a role in the economy following their exclusion during the racist apartheid era. The National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill promises universal healthcare for all.

The ANC has said both policies are non-negotiable in coalition talks.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who now heads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, which finished third with 58 seats, was not present at the announcement of the results and had suggested he might challenge them.

MK has said it is willing to work with the ANC, but it is not under Mr Ramaphosa’s leadership.

He replaced Mr Zuma as president and ANC leader in 2018 following a bitter power struggle.

In a BBC interview, Patrick Gaspard, the US ambassador to South Africa from 2013-16, described the two politicians as “definite adversaries”.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Zuma called for a rerun of the election and said the Electoral Commission should not announce the final results.

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On Saturday, he warned that if the commission ignores his demand for fresh elections it will “inflame us”.

“Don’t start a problem when there is no problem,” he said.

There are now concerns about how Mr Zuma’s supporters will respond to the results.

The 82-year-old was a political wildcard in this election – and is preparing to flex his muscles as kingmaker in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where the MK party has won a landslide vote from the ANC.

Formed a few months ago, it won 44% to the largest party in the province – the ANC’s 19%.

Local issues may have been a big factor in that shift, with some community members turning their backs on the ANC after failing to fix acute water shortages.

Areas like Trenton’s Park, a 20-minute drive from Durban, the province’s main city, have been without piped water for 10 months.

Residents depend on water tankers that sometimes do not deliver water on time.

Now that the election is over, the people of KwaZulu-Natal hope that the problem will be resolved.

Earlier, South Africa’s police chief warned that threats to destabilize the country would not be tolerated.

“There will be no room for non-committal threats to register objections or concerns about electoral processes,” Police Minister Becky Cele told a news conference.

The ANC has always polled above 50% since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, which saw Nelson Mandela become president.

But support for the party has declined significantly due to anger over high levels of corruption, unemployment and crime.

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“There are tens of thousands of young people in the country, the so-called Born Free generation, who were born after the end of apartheid after 1994, and they feel their country is undergoing a political transition, but not an economic one,” Mr Gaspard said. BBC.

In 2015 “it is already clear that the ANC has a downward trajectory as it has failed to deliver essential services in the country”, specifically referring to the rolling blackouts.

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