South Africa’s election results present case for a coalition of “common good”

SANF 24 no 10 – By Clarkson Mambo

Political parties in South Africa have to work together and collaborate in a coalition government for the benefit of the country following the 29 May elections in which no single political party emerged as an outright winner.

This is the encouragement by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and other political leaders after the final results announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) showed that no party managed to secure 50 percent of the vote, which is required by law to enable a party to set up a government on its own.

The African National Congress (ANC), for the first time since 1994, did not manage to get a majority, but still came out at the top after securing 40.1 percent of the vote. This was down from 57.5 percent in the last polls held in 2019.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) came second at 21.81 percent, followed by a new party Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) at 14.58 percent, while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which has been the third biggest party in the previous two elections, dropped to fourth place after getting 9.52 percent of the vote.

In terms of distribution of parliamentary seats in the National Assembly, the ANC dropped to 159 from 230 in the last election, while the DA, with 87, gained three more seats.

A first timer in the polls, the MK, which is led by former South African President, Jacob Zuma, secured 58 seats while the EFF got 39 seats, down from 44 the last time. The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) got 17 seats, improving its past performance by three more seats, while the Patriotic Alliance obtained nine seats. The remainder of the seats were shared among smaller parties most of which got one seat each.

As no single party managed to get a majority vote, the ANC, which got the largest percentage of the votes will have to enter into a coalition with one or more parties to establish a majority of over 50 percent in order to form a government.

This presents the DA, MK and EFF as possible partners at national level, although the dynamics vary at provincial level, where provincial governments will also be established. The ANC won an outright majority in five of the nine provincial assemblies.

According to the South African Constitution, the new National Assembly must convene within 14 days after the declaration of the election results. After appointment of presiding officers, the legislature is expected to elect the President by a simple majority. The President is expected to assume office five days after the elections in the National Assembly.

In South Africa, the President is not voted for directly in general elections, but is ordinarily the leader of the party that secures the highest number of seats in parliament. In a coalition government every position, including that of President is negotiated between the parties.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa said the conduct and results of polls were a reflection of a democracy that is strong, describing them as the most “competitive elections we have held since attaining democracy in 1994”.

“Our people have spoken whether we like it or not,” he said in his candid assessment of the election results.

“With us now having entered a new phase in our democratic journey, political parties will have to strive in earnest to find common ground as we work to rebuild our country. Although every political party carries a mandate based on the commitments they made to the electorate, all parties share an over-arching mandate to build a country that is inclusive, united and prosperous,” he added.

Chairperson of the IEC, Mosotho Moepya said the election was free and fair, despite “some challenges” that the electoral body had to overcome.

“This moment is a triumph for our democracy, a victory for the principles of transparency, accountability, and the rule of law,” he said.

This declaration was despite contestations and allegations of lack of transparency in the conduct of elections in some constituencies by parties such as the DA, MK and other smaller parties.

More than 70 political parties took part in the elections, and independent candidates were also allowed to participate for the first time in 30 years.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote, but voter turnout by close of polls averaged 58.64 percent, down from 66 percent in 2019.

Following the pronouncement of the results, political maneuvering has commenced as parties position themselves to be part of the coalition government.

Several parties have expressed willingness to be part of a coalition government, but have varying demands that the ANC will have to consider before settling on a partner.

The ANC has declared that the position of President Ramaphosa is non-negotiable. If elected, he will serve for a second and final term.

The DA leader, John Steenhuisen said the party has established a negotiation team to enter into “exploratory talks with other parties that share a commitment to the South African Constitution.”

Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF said, “We want to work with the ANC, if there is any party that we can work with, and work properly, it’s the ANC.”

A failure to establish a government will result in the holding of fresh elections.

The elections were observed by more than 190 observer missions including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM), which was led by a former Zambian Vice President, Enock Kavindele.

“The elections were professionally organised, and conducted in an orderly, peaceful and free atmosphere, which enabled the voters to express their democratic will and those who sought office to campaign freely,” the SEOM declared in its interim statement.

The deployment of the SEOM, based on the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, underscores SADC’s commitment to democratic principles and fair play.

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