ANC weighs coalition options as it faces blow in South African election

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The African National Congress was set to suffer a major blow in the country’s general election on Saturday, sparking frantic internal debates over possible permutations of a future coalition government.

With more than 98 percent of the votes counted, the ANC won 40.2 percent and the market-oriented Democratic Alliance came in second with 21.7 percent.

Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe party, whose formation six months ago upended the electoral math, won 14.7 percent, a surprisingly strong figure.

The ANC is in a “state of disbelief” over the election result, according to party sources. He must now consider how he can continue to govern and whether he can retain Cyril Ramaphosa as leader.

The party’s national executive committee, its main decision-making body, will meet on Sunday to discuss what is arguably the movement’s biggest crisis in the last 30 years.

“This is apocalyptic and perhaps even existential for the ANC,” said Richard Calland, a law professor and political analyst. “This raises the question of what kind of party they want to be in the future: do they want to be a party that governs from the center and defends the constitution, or do they want to be dragged to the extreme where the populist tail wags the dog?

“It’s a shocking defeat for the ANC,” said one person close to the party.

“The bad guys will argue that it’s a defeat for Cyril and that we lost because we got rid of (Julius) Malema, Zuma, Ace (Magashule),” the person said, referring to former prominent members who had been expelled. “The other side will argue that it is a defeat because the renovation project has not been deep enough to regain the trust of voters.”

Parliament has 14 days to elect a president after the result is announced.

If there are moves to unseat Ramaphosa, there will be speculation about who might replace him and what that might mean for the makeup of any potential coalition. Analysts said that if ANC deputy president Paul Mashatile were to take power, he would be more inclined to strike a deal with Zuma’s MP and possibly Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters, a move that would likely unsettle markets. financial.

Other names being mentioned as outside possibilities to succeed Ramaphosa include Gwede Mantashe, the powerful energy minister, and Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister.

Susan Booysen, a political analyst and professor emeritus at Wits University, gave Ramaphosa a good chance to hold on. “Even if the ANC wants to get rid of Ramaphosa, there is no credible alternative leader at the moment,” she said.

One person close to the ANC said: “I don’t think anyone is willing to raise their hand and stab Cyril yet.”

If Ramaphosa stays, analysts said the chances of a formal or informal alliance with the DA would increase. One possibility being discussed was a national unity government composed of the ANC and the DA, with other smaller parties also participating, including the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Instead, the ANC could establish a minority government with the support of the DA on an ad hoc basis. In exchange, the district attorney could be granted the position of speaker of the House, giving him control over the parliamentary process.

“Potential models are still in deep debate, but they seem to be settling on two main options,” said a DA member who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal party discussions.

One possibility was a bid-and-trust model “in which the DA would obtain certain political concessions and take control of the legislature,” he said.

Alternatively, the DA could consider a “comprehensive national unity government model” with the ANC and IFP to “avoid a national EFF/MK/ANC coalition which we know would be devastating for South Africa”.

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