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South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa re-elected for second term after late-night coalition agreement

This came after the African National Congress lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years since ending apartheid in 1994. The situation forced it to partner with the opposition Democratic Alliance, once considered ANC's fiercest rival.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Cape Town Published on: June 15, 2024 12:34 IST
Cyril Ramaphosa with PM Modi
Image Source : PTI South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with PM Modi at the G20 Summit.

Cape Town: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was reelected by lawmakers for a second term on Friday after his Africa National Congress, which lost the parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years in this month's elections, struck a late coalition deal with the main opposition and other parties. He secured the second term with the help of lawmakers from the second-biggest Democratic Alliance party and others.

The ANC signed an agreement with the DA — once its fiercest political foe — during the parliamentary session and just hours before the vote for president, ensuring Ramaphosa returned as leader of Africa's most industrialised economy. The parties will now co-govern South Africa in its first national coalition where no party has a majority, an unprecedented situation.

"Honourable Matamela @CyrilRamaphosa has been re-elected as the President of the Republic of South Africa during the First Sitting of the National Assembly of the 7th Democratic Parliament tonight at Cape Town International Convention Centre," said the African National Congress (ANC) on its X handle.

It is important to mention here that the ANC has been in power since it ended the apartheid regime, which was marked by years of oppression against the Black community. This will be the first time it is paired with the white-led DA which has been considered ANC's fiercest rival. At least two other smaller parties will also be part of the agreement that put South Africa into uncharted waters with the first coalition government in history.

ANC lost 30-year majority

The agreement was necessary after the ANC lost its 30-year majority in a humbling national election last month. It was a turning point for Africa's most industrialised economy. The ANC is the party of former President Nelson Mandela and has governed with a comfortable majority ever since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule in 1994.

That three-decade dominance ended in the May 29 election, when the ANC's share of the vote dropped to 40 per cent amid discontent from South Africans over high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment. All the parties have said they would put their differences aside to work in the best interests of the country.

While the ANC managed 40.29 per cent, the main opposition party - the Democratic Alliance - won over 21 per cent of the votes. uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president Jacob Zuma, managed to grab 14.71 per cent in the first election it has contested. MK and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have called for parts of the economy to be nationalised. The focus was on which parties the ANC chose to form a coalition government.

Cyril Ramaphosa's ties with PM Modi

Ramaphosa, 71, easily won the late Friday vote against Julius Malema, leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). Ramaphosa got 283 votes and Malema just 44. Meanwhile, Thoko Didiza of the ANC was elected as Speaker and Annelie Lotriet of the DA as Deputy Speaker.

Notably, India and South Africa share a strategic partnership and Cyril Ramaphosa shares friendly ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ramaphosa's elections thus come as good news for India, which has paved the way for the African Union to be included in the G20 bloc as it strives to become an important voice for the Global South.

While congratulating PM Modi for his re-election, Ramaphosa had emphasised the importance of the two countries’ continued cooperation to promote the agenda of the Global South, notably the reform of the global system of governance, and to align positions in global fora in the interest of strengthening multilateral organisations.

Differences remain with South African coalition

Ramaphosa's election ended days of speculation, came close to midnight on Friday with last-minute inter-party discussions to establish a government of national unity (GNU). The Parliament session witnessed frequent interruptions and long voting processe as opposition parties sought the removal of the President for any advancement in negotiations.

Some welcomed the alliance as a new era in South African politics which would send a strong message of reconciliation and bolster the ailing economy, especially after Mkhonto we Sizwe (MK) - the new party started by ousted former president Jacob Zuma - and the EFF, which came fourth, refused to work with the DA. Others said the ANC had sold out the citizens of the country by partnering with the DA.

In his victory speech, Ramaphosa hailed the new coalition, and said voters expected the leaders to "act and to work together for the good of everyone in our country". He is expected to announce his new Cabinet after his inauguration on Wednesday. “We were voted for by six million people who want us to continue the transformational agenda to changing the lives of the people for the better,” said ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalul.

The ANC had faced a deadline to get a coalition agreement given Parliament had to sit for the first time and vote for the president within 14 days of the election results being declared on June 2. The ANC had been trying to strike a coalition agreement for two weeks and the final negotiations went through the night Thursday and into Friday, party officials said. However, there were some differences within the two main parties - for one, the DA disagreed with the ANC government's move to accuse Israel of genocide in Gaza.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | South Africa elections: ANC, which freed country from apartheid, loses majority for first time in 30 years

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