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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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President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa attends the second day of the 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union at the African Union.

REUTERS/Stringer

South Africa to hold May elections

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that his country will hold a general election on May 29. Ramaphosa’s party, the African National Congress, is at risk of losing its parliamentary majority after ruling since post-Apartheid elections began in 1994.
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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong (not pictured) attend a media briefing in Cape Town.

REUTERS/Esa Alexander

African leaders make Ukraine peace trip

The leaders of half a dozen African countries traveled to Kyiv on Friday for a mission to advance ceasefire prospects in the war. They were welcomed by incoming Russian missiles and air raids. Leading the effort is South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who, despite being officially non-aligned, has cultivated close ties with the Kremlin recently – holding joint military drills and allegedly allowing arms shipments to Moscow.

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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 African President Cyril Ramaphosa attends the 55th National Conference of the ruling African National Congress in Johannesburg.

REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Hard Numbers: Ramaphosa cleared, women in legal limbo, drought kills Argentina’s economy, French pension reforms almost done

500,000: President Cyril Ramaphosa was cleared by South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog of wrongdoing in a graft scandal involving about $500,000 in cash stolen from under sofa cushions at his ranch, which he says was a payment from the sale of Cape buffaloes. Ramaphosa narrowly escaped removal from office over this allegation last December.

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Emergency workers extinguish fire in vehicles at the site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia?s attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 9, 2023.

REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

What We’re Watching: Russian air strikes, South African economic squeeze, day of resistance in Israel

Russia pummels Ukraine

On Thursday, Russia launched a wave of early-morning air strikes with missiles and Iranian-made drones on Ukrainian cities, its worst attack targeting civilians in a month. At least six people died, and almost half of Kyiv residents were left without electricity. Meanwhile, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe's largest — was knocked offlinefor the sixth time and is now operating on diesel power. It's unclear why Moscow did this or has waited so long, but perhaps the Russians are running so low on weapons and ammo that it's much harder to carry out coordinated attacks. For their part, Ukrainians living in urban areas have become so accustomed to the barrages that they are hardly intimidated, which is the whole point for Vladimir Putin. On the battlefield, Russia is still struggling to conquer Bakhmut, a key town in eastern Ukraine, amid an ongoing rift between the Russian military and top mercenary warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin.

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A woman cooks by a candlelight during one of the frequent power outages in South Africa.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

South Africa struggles in the dark

Things are dark in South Africa right now, both metaphorically and literally. Though not new, rolling blackouts have worsened in recent months, disrupting every aspect of daily life. With the situation near breaking point, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster in recent days, which allows the government to bypass bureaucratic hurdles to get stuff done.

Why are things so dire in Africa’s most industrialized country, and what’s the government’s plan – if any – to fix it?

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Georgia votes: Democratic candidate U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker

Reuters

What We’re Watching: Georgia's runoff election, Iran’s bluff, Putin's black eye, Ramaphosa's political survival

Walker and Warnock reach the finish line

Tuesday is the day that Georgia voters, exhausted by months of this bitterly contested election, will have their final votes counted. Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock is expected to win a close race with football legend Herschel Walker. Early voting, which is expected to favor Warnock, has had a historically heavy turnout. The Democrats have already secured their Senate majority by winning 50 seats. (A 50-50 tied vote is decided by Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat.) But a 51st seat would be important for Democrats, because it ensures that no single Democrat can win concessions by threatening to block the party agenda and that Democrats have majority control within every Senate committee, speeding the approval of judges and other Biden appointees. A Warnock victory would also give former President Donald Trump yet another political blackeye in the hotly contested state of Georgia. President Joe Biden carried the state in 2020, while Democrats Warnock and Jon Ossoff were elected. Gov. Brian Kemp and particularly Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, distinguished themselves in 2020 and 2021 by refusing to support Trump’s effort to overturn his presidential loss in the Peach State.

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