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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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A worker removes a campaign banner of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa after an African National Congress event ahead of the upcoming elections in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 25, 2024.

REUTERS/James Oatway

South Africa’s landmark election: Will the ANC be out?

South Africans vote this Wednesday in what is possibly the most significant election since the end of apartheid in 1994. Even with the support of older and rural voters, the ruling African National Congress, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, could lose its majority for the first time. Despite leading South Africa to democracy under Nelson Mandela, the ANC now faces rising discontent due toan unemployment rate of 32%, a poverty rate of 50%, and myriad corruption scandals.
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Members of the armed wing of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress line up waiting to vote in a military base north of Pretoria, on April 26, 1994.

REUTERS/Corinne Dufka

South Africa still struggles with inequality 30 years after apartheid

Thirty years ago this weekend, South Africa ushered in its first democratic government.

On April 27, 1994, Black South Africans went to the polls, marking an end to years of white minority rule and the institutionalized racial segregation known as apartheid.

Freedom Day, as that day is commemorated, gave rise to South Africa’s first Black president, Nelson Mandela. The internal protests and violence over apartheid, as well as international sanctions, were relegated to the annals of history, ushering in a new era of promise for racial equality and prosperity.

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Newly re-elected president of the African National Congress

REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

South Africa's divided opposition boosts the ANC

For three decades, the African National Congress has dominated South Africa’s post-apartheid political system, though some within the ANC feared the personal feud between President Cyril Ramaphosa and former President Jacob Zuma might finally cost the party an election. But with the approach of elections, probably in May, it’s once again the opposition that appears to be fragmenting.
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Members of parliament hold placards after the result of the vote on the first motion of no-confidence against the French government at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: Slim win for Macron, protests in South Africa, Trump’s legal woes, Colombia peace collapsing?

Macron’s narrow escape

It came down to the wire, but Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in France’s National Assembly on Monday, with 278 voting to topple the government, nine votes shy of the threshold needed to pass.

Quick recap: The motion was triggered after Macron used a constitutional provision last week -- bypassing a vote in the lower house -- to pass a controversial pension reform despite weeks of protests (more on that here).

Not only do 70% of French adults abhor Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030 – which he says is necessary to plug the growing debt hole – but the French electorate, which has long had a libertarian streak, is also furious that the government used what it says is an anti-democratic loophole to pass the measure.

Macron’s troubles are only just beginning. Hundreds were arrested in Paris over the weekend and on Monday as anti-government protests turned violent and smelly. Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes in a bid to pressure the government to roll back the measures (which will never happen).

Prime Minister Élizabeth Borne will likely take the fall and resign. Still, Macron, already unpopular before this debacle, will emerge a diminished political figure. After previously saying he understood that people were “tired of reforms which come from above,” it will be very hard for the ideological chameleon to regain the trust of vast swathes of the population.

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South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa.

REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Viewpoint: Is it a make-or-break year for South Africa’s president?

Eurasia Group's Africa Director Shridaran Pillay looks at the year ahead for President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is struggling to resolve numerous deep-rooted problems in South Africa: high unemployment, low economic growth, rolling electricity blackouts, and the wage demands of public-sector unions that continually threaten to derail public finances. But to effectively deal with these challenges, he first must shore up his own political position.

At the ruling African National Congress’s elective conference in December, Ramaphosa will try to obtain a new term as party president and place close allies in other important positions. That would allow him to unify a divided party, press ahead with needed economic reforms, and continue with an anti-corruption campaign aimed at reforming the ANC's image ahead of the 2024 election and sidelining opponents to his agenda.

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A man walks past Sinn Fein election posters along the nationalist Falls Road in Belfast.

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

What We're Watching: Elections in Northern Ireland, South African president in trouble

Northern Ireland’s choice

On Thursday, voters across the UK head to the polls for local elections, but it’s the contest in Northern Ireland that might make history. Sinn Féin is expected to finish with the most seats in Northern Ireland’s assembly. Its victory would be more symbolic than immediately substantive, since power in the assembly must be shared between the two lead parties, and Sinn Féin has focused its campaign on today’s economic hardship, not on a century of Irish partition. But the symbolism matters. A Sinn Féin win would mark the first time in Northern Ireland’s 101-year history that the UK province is led by a party that supports reunification with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. It would make Sinn Féin the most popular party on both sides of the Irish border. And it would prove deeply embarrassing for UK PM Boris Johnson, who is fighting for his scandal-plagued political life at the moment and considering another battle with the European Union over Northern Ireland’s place in the EU’s single market.

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Paige Fusco

Hard Numbers: Big Biz funds Net Zero, ANC on the ropes in South Africa, Brazil COVID deaths drop, Asia’s mega-trade deal

130 trillion: A group of the world's top banks, insurance companies, and asset managers will raise an astounding $130 trillion worth of private capital to help the world achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The initiative, launched at COP26 by former Bank of England boss Mark Carney and known by its somewhat odd acronym Gfanz, bans its members from funding any fossil fuel projects.

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