Elections in South Africa: ANC Fails to Gain Absolute Majority for First Time

Voter turnout also left much to be desired, with 58.6% of the 27.8 million eligible voters casting their ballots

Cyril Ramaphosa

For the first time since the end of apartheid in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), which has been in power in the country since 1994, failed to win an absolute majority in the May 29 general election. According to the South African Electoral Commission (IEC), which published final results late due to a cyberattack on its servers, the ANC managed to secure 40.2% of the vote, its worst result ever. Contributing to the ANC’s defeat was an unusually low voter turnout of 58.6%.

For the first time since the end of apartheid, the ANC will be forced to form a coalition government with one or more smaller parties. The Democratic Alliance (DA) came second in popularity among voters with 21.7% of the vote, while former President Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation, MK) party rounded out the top three with 14.7%.

The South African press predicted that forming an alliance between the ANC and MK would be very difficult, almost impossible, given the deep divisions between outgoing President Ramaphosa and his predecessor Zuma, who was expelled from the election by the South African Constitutional Court several days before the vote. Far more likely, but “not obvious” to South African and international political observers, is an agreement between the ANC and the DA. The National Assembly (Parliament) will also choose the next President of South Africa, who will remain in office for the next five years.