First results in South Africa’s election suggest it is heading for biggest political shift since apartheid

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Early results from South Africa’s election suggest the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party could lose its majority for the first time in 30 years.

With results in from 22% of polling stations at 4 p.m. local time, support for the ANC stood at 43.5%.

The official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), had 24.7% of the vote, while the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – a splinter party of the ANC – had 8.9%, data from the country’s electoral commission showed.

The respected research group CSIR modeled the ANC winning less than 45% of the national poll as of mid-morning on Thursday.

Officials of the Independent Electoral Commission have stressed that the official tally could take several days and some larger voting wards could take more time to be tallied.

In past elections, results from rural areas – where the ANC has major strongholds – have come in later, boosting results for the party.

Once all the votes are counted, if the ANC remains below 50% it will be forced to enter a coalition with one or more parties. Depending on how low its support dips, it may need to form a deal with one of the larger opposition parties such as the DA or EFF to remain in power.

Another ANC splinter party, the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK), led by former President Jacob Zuma appears to be on course to do well in KwaZulu-Natal, the eastern coastal province where Durban is located. At 10am local time, it had 42.3% of the votes there compared to 20.1% for the ANC.

Zuma – a fierce critic of current ANC leader and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa – was forced to resign as leader in 2018 and served a brief stint in jail in 2021 for contempt of court. The 82-year-old was barred from running for parliament last week after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that five years must have elapsed since the completion of his sentence. However, his face remained on the ballot.

South Africa’s electoral commission has seven days to declare the final results by law. However, they are usually announced sooner than that. This year, the commission has set Sunday, June 2, as the final results day.

If the ANC does lose its majority, it will have 14 days once the final results are declared to form a new government before a new parliament must convene to elect the nation’s president.

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