Fri. May 17th, 2024

South Africa has set to hold a general election on May 29, a pivotal vote that could reshape the nation’s political landscape for the first time in three decades.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid, is at risk of losing its parliamentary majority, potentially ushering in a new era of political dynamics.

More than 27 million South Africans are registered to vote in this critical election, where they will elect a new 400-seat National Assembly. The newly elected Assembly will then choose the president. Since the first democratic election in 1994, the ANC has consistently secured over 50% of the vote. However, recent polls suggest that this dominance might be on shaky ground as the ANC struggles to maintain support amid growing disillusionment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, 71, has defended the ANC’s track record, citing advancements in equality, access to education, land reforms, and infrastructure development. However, the party has faced criticism for high unemployment rates, decaying infrastructure, and persistent crime. The ANC’s popularity has also been undermined by a series of corruption scandals, leading to a loss of support in the 2021 local elections, where the party fell below the 50% threshold for the first time.

An Ipsos poll released last week indicated that support for the ANC now stands just above 40%, a significant drop from the 57% it secured in the last general election in 2019. If the ANC fails to secure an absolute majority, it would be forced to form coalitions to maintain power. The Democratic Alliance (DA), the largest opposition party, has formed an alliance with about 10 smaller parties. However, even with this coalition, they might struggle to gain enough support to topple the ANC.

Adding to the election’s uncertainty is the emergence of former president Jacob Zuma’s breakaway party, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), named after the ANC’s former armed wing during the anti-apartheid struggle. Zuma, a controversial figure who retains significant support in KwaZulu-Natal, his home province, could erode the ANC’s voter base. The ANC has tried, unsuccessfully, to disqualify MK from the election, citing intellectual property concerns. Yet, an Ipsos survey estimated MK’s support at 8.4%, potentially cutting into the ANC’s voter share.

The upcoming election could spark social unrest, especially if the Constitutional Court rules against Zuma’s candidacy. Zuma’s imprisonment in 2021 led to widespread protests, riots, and looting, resulting in the death of over 350 people. As the election draws near, the nation awaits the outcome with anticipation, knowing that the results, expected within three days of the vote, could mark a turning point in South Africa’s political trajectory.

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