HomePoliticsThe thirty-year dominance of Mandela's party in South Africa's elections appears to...

The thirty-year dominance of Mandela’s party in South Africa’s elections appears to be coming to an end

For thirty years, power in South Africa had a three-letter name: the ANC, or African National Congress. The political party once led by Nelson Mandela has been a powerful symbol of liberation from white minority rule and has attracted the loyalty of millions of South Africans who remember life under apartheid.

But after three decades of winning election after election, the ANC under President Cyril Ramaphosa now faces its biggest challenge since coming to power in 1994. young democracy.

Opinion polls ahead of Wednesday’s elections show that the ANC could fall below 50% of the vote for the first time. While the party would likely still ultimately control the presidency, it would be forced into a coalition with smaller parties that blame the ANC’s current trajectory for the country’s deep problems.

South Africans will vote in elections seen as their country's most important in three decades and which could put them in uncharted territory in the short history of their democracy, which has seen the dominance of the African National Congress party for three decades. is the target of an election campaign.  new generation of dissatisfaction in a country with 62 million inhabitants - half of whom are estimated to live in poverty.  (Jerome Delay / AP)

“It’s a huge election in that respect,” said Christopher Vandome, senior research fellow at Chatham House’s Africa Program. “Many of the opposition recognize that this may be the first opportunity they have had for more pluralistic politics in thirty years.”

Here, NBC News takes a look at what could be a pivotal election.

Why is the ANC struggling?

In the years after apartheid ended with the first free, democratic elections in 1994, many voters credited the ANC with improving the lives of South Africans – especially for the black majority who gained basic rights. The international sanctions that had hampered the economy disappeared and gross domestic product soared.

See also  North Dakota voters just approved an age limit for congressional candidates. What's next?

“People felt like everything was getting better,” Vandome said. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, that has remained stable, and so the frustration with the government has really increased.”

It’s easy to understand why. An unemployment rate hovering around 32% – the highest in the world – has ravaged the South African economy, hitting younger workers particularly hard. Income inequality, especially between whites and blacks, is persistent; Two years ago, the World Bank ranked South Africa as the most unequal country in the world.

Additionally, an energy crisis has led to rolling power outages across the country, which have hampered businesses. And many voters have said they blame the ANC and successive governments for failing to curb runaway violent crime rates and corruption.

Then there is the issue of race, still a painful, pervasive backdrop to South African politics.

“As a country, we have not really transcended the issue of race,” says Hlengiwe Ndlovu, senior lecturer at the Wits School of Governance in Johannesburg. “And this continues to happen, especially when young people look at the opposition parties and try to decide which political party can actually represent their interests.”

See also  Biden appears to clap after Morehouse Grad calls for 'immediate and permanent ceasefire' in Gaza during commencement

Who challenges the ANC?

This year, a record 51 opposition parties are taking part in the national vote in a bid to oust the ANC. Some of them are new parties and some campaign on specific issues such as closing the borders, while others focus on specific ethnic groups.

According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa, 27.79 million South Africans aged 18 and over registered for this year’s elections, up from 26.74 million in 2019.

South African elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images)South African elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP - Getty Images)

South African elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. (Gianluigi Guercia / AFP – Getty Images)

The Democratic Alliance, the second-largest vote-getter in the last 2019 elections, is campaigning on a platform of saving South Africa from widespread corruption and fixing its economy. Party leader John Steenhuisen urged people to vote for the ANC to “save” the country, calling it “South Africa’s most consequential election in post-democratic history.”

Yet the party has also struggled with the perception among many that it is largely the party of white voters.

Another challenge for the ANC comes from the Economic Freedom Fighters, which were founded about a decade ago. Its core base is young people, including many black college students concerned about racial inequality. Polling around 11% ahead of Wednesday’s election, leader Julius Malema has criticized the ANC’s platform for not being nearly ambitious enough.

See also  Democrats consider Trump's play for Minnesota a 'head fake'

Among the newcomers on the scene is uMkhonto weSizwe, or “Spear of the Nation,” also known as the MK Party. Named after the ANC’s former paramilitary wing, it was founded last year by former South African President Jacob Zuma as a breakaway party from the ANC.

Although the Supreme Court has ruled that Zuma cannot stand as a candidate himself due to a previous criminal conviction for contempt of court, his face will appear on the ballot paper alongside his party.

What happens if the ANC falls below 50%?

In the South African democracy of more than 60 million people, voters do not vote directly for the president, but instead choose which party they want to represent them in parliament, known as the National Assembly. The 400 members of the National Assembly then elect the president.

If there is no outright majority, the biggest vote-getter – likely the ANC – would be forced to negotiate with one or more smaller parties to form a coalition that would give them more than 50% of the seats.

South Africans will vote on May 29, 2024 in what may be the most consequential election in decades as discontent with the ruling ANC threatens to end its three-decade political dominance.  (Michele Spatari / AFP - Getty Images)South Africans will vote on May 29, 2024 in what may be the most consequential election in decades as discontent with the ruling ANC threatens to end its three-decade political dominance.  (Michele Spatari / AFP - Getty Images)

South Africans will vote on May 29, 2024 in what may be the most consequential election in decades as discontent with the ruling ANC threatens to end its three-decade political dominance. (Michele Spatari / AFP – Getty Images)

This form of power-sharing could complicate tackling some of South Africa’s toughest problems, and recent attempts at coalition governments at the local level in South Africa have proven disastrous. It could also open the door to much more political competition in the future, with voters increasingly realizing that they have viable choices outside the ANC.

How does the generation gap progress?

Traditionally, older voters have been more likely to remain loyal to the ANC, Hlengiwe and other South African political experts say, attributing this partly to nostalgia for Mandela and the memory of liberation from apartheid.

It is the younger population, disproportionately affected by skyrocketing unemployment, whose voting power the ANC most threatens. South African government statistics show that approximately 42% of registered voters are under the age of 40.

“For an older generation, you have a relationship where people wouldn’t necessarily vote against the ANC, they would withhold their vote,” Chatham House’s Vandome said. “That is not entirely the case for a younger generation. I think there are people who are willing to vote for alternatives.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

- Advertisement -
RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments