South Africa’s Coalition Government Is a Risky Gamble for All Sides

South Africa’s Coalition Government Is a Risky Gamble for All Sides
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the National Results Operations Center to hear the announcement of the outcome of the country’s general elections, in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 2, 2024 (AP photo by Emilio Morenatti).

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in for a second term in office Wednesday, after his ruling African National Congress, or ANC, party struck a last-ditch agreement last week with its main rival, the Democratic Alliance, or DA, to form a governing coalition. In exchange for supporting Ramaphosa’s reelection, the DA will hold positions in the Cabinet and the legislature. The agreement to form what Ramaphosa called a government of national unity came after none of South Africa’s political parties won a majority in the country’s general election on May 29.

In that vote, the ANC won 40 percent of the ballots cast, giving it the single largest share, but representing a 17-point drop from the last elections in 2019. The loss of its majority, which it had held since South Africa completed its formal transition from apartheid to multiracial democracy in 1994, left the ANC beholden to coalition partners well to the party’s right on most policy issues, including the DA, which retained its position as the second-largest party in the National Assembly.

The ANC’s underperformance at the polls highlighted the widespread disillusionment among South African voters about their deteriorating living conditions. To that end, some analysts argued that the ANC’s failure to win a majority of votes for the first time since 1994 points to a healthy, mature democracy that features credible, competitive elections. Many South Africans also express hope that the new governing coalition would cause a rejuvenation of the ANC and force the country’s political parties to work together to tackle the myriad challenges South Africa faces, including economic stagnation, high unemployment, a debilitating energy crisis, crime and worsening poverty.

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