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South African president Cyril Ramaphosa casts his vote during the South African elections in Soweto, South Africa May 29, 2024

REUTERS/Oupa Nkosi

Can the ANC make new friends and keep the old (president)?

For the first time in 30 years, South Africa’s African National Congress failed to win a majority in this month’s election, forcing it to turn to opposition parties in hopes of forming a coalition.

The most likely option now seems to be a multiparty coalition, similar to Nelson Mandela’s post-apartheid transitional government. This would allow the ANC to maintain its power by partnering with smaller, less established parties and, notably, the Economic Freedom Fighters, which underperformed in the election. According to Eurasia Group analyst Ziyanda Stuurman, this government is most favorable to the ANC as it would “keep Cyril Ramaphosa as president and provide at least some stability across the political landscape.”

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Johannesburg, South Africa - People are pictured voting at a polling station in Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 29, 2024.

Handout / Latin America News Agency

South Africa’s ruling party faces coalition conundrum

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, scored its worst election result in 30 years last week, forcing the party into tricky coalition talks. The ANC took just 40% of the vote, down from 58% in 2019 and below the party’s worst-case projections, as support waned due to high corruption, unemployment, and crime. Nelson Mandela’s former party now faces a choice between potential partners for building a coalition, all with a heavy price.

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Supporters of political party Rise Mzansi attend a protest march calling for the delivery of basic services in the Western Cape ahead of the general election in Cape Town, South Africa May 22, 2024.

REUTERS/Nic Bothma

Viewpoint: As South Africa's democracy turns 30, Mandela's ANC faces toughest election yet

South African voters will decide on May 29 whether to give another five-year mandate to the African National Congress, the political party that helped bring about the country’s transition to multi-racial democracy in 1994 and has ruled ever since.

Amid intense scrutiny of the ANC’s 30-year record – especially its failure to address economic problems and an electricity supply crisis – the polls show the party at risk of losing its parliamentary majority. Contributing to its woes is the reemergence of Jacob Zuma, a controversial former president and party leader, who is supporting a new political formation threatening to steal votes from the ANC.

We sat down with Eurasia Group’s Ziyanda Stuurman to learn more about the upcoming vote.

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U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the G20 leaders summit in Rome, Italy October 30, 2021.

Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Biden in Europe, Gulf states vs Lebanon, elections in Nicaragua, South Africa & Virginia

Biden's Euro trip. President Joe Biden is on a crucial Euro trip. It began in Rome at the G-20 Summit, where his idea for a global minimum tax rate was broadly endorsed by the group. Biden also visited Pope Francis at the Vatican — a get-together that produced decidedly less scary photos than when his predecessor held a papal visit — and met with France's President Emmanuel Macron to try to smooth over strained relations after the AUKUS debacle, which he now says had been "clumsy." The US president had another face-to-face with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just a week after Ankara threatened to expel the US ambassador. But there's a domestic component at play too: Biden was hoping to have passed two infrastructure bills, which include money for climate change, before he attended the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, which kicked off on Sunday. Failure to close the deal on Capitol Hill would deal Biden's credibility a heavy blow just at the moment he wants to reinforce the US commitment to climate change reduction goals at this week's summit and to claim, yet again, that America is indeed back! But Democrats continue to wrangle over both what's in the bills and how to pay for them. Meanwhile, only a third of Americans now say that the US is headed in the right direction. Biden was hoping to have the wind at his back as he sailed into Europe. Instead, he is facing a strong political headwind.

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A supporter of the African National Congress (ANC) looks on ahead of the launch of an election manifesto at the church square in Pretoria, South Africa, September 27, 2021.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

What We're Watching: South Africa's local elections

ANC feels heat as South Africa votes. South Africans go to the polls on Monday to vote in local elections, which are viewed as the biggest test for the ruling ANC party since the end of apartheid. The ANC, which has won every nationwide election since 1994, could lose control of major cities, including Johannesburg, to the opposition Democratic Alliance and coalitions of small independent parties because many South Africans are fed up with government corruption and dysfunction. Indeed, ongoing power outages are being blamed on a state-owned power utility long suspected of graft, and crumbling infrastructure on years of financial mismanagement by successive ANC-led governments. President Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC stalwart, has admitted (some) party mistakes, and required all ANC candidates to sign a non-enforceable pledge to improve public services. More broadly, it's also the first time the ANC will face voters since the deadly riots that followed former president Jacob Zuma's conviction for contempt of court last July. Zuma is now on parole while he faces trial for corruption, but he remains immensely popular with the ANC's left wing — and a thorn in the side of his successor Ramaphosa.

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