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South Africa's General Election: All You Need To Know

22.05.2024 17:12

Over 27 million registered voters will elect lawmakers for 400 member Parliament and provincial legislatures on May 29 70 political parties are in the running, with the major ones being the ruling ANC, opposition Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters party Polls suggest this...

South Africans will be heading to the polls on May 29 to elect national and provincial lawmakers in a contest that experts believe will be the tightest since the first post-apartheid democratic elections of 1994.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, once led by the late global icon Nelson Mandela, has dominated South African politics for the past three decades.

However, the feeling across the board is that this election will be the toughest for the ANC and its current leader President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Who votes and for what?

There are over 27 million registered voters in the country of some 62 million.

They will be voting for lawmakers of provincial legislatures and 400 members of Parliament, known as the National Assembly. Voting is on a party basis and the parties get seats in the parliament.

These national lawmakers will then elect the president, which means that the party who wins the election gets ultimate power in the country.

Who are the contenders?

There are a total of 70 registered political parties in the running, but all eyes are on the ANC and the Democratic Alliance (DA), the largest opposition force in Parliament.

They are followed by the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the country's third largest party, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The ANC, which currently has 230 seats in Parliament, has secured more than 60% in all elections since 1994, barring 2019, when its share dipped to 57.5%.

"Many opinion polls suggest the ANC might not be able to cross the 50% mark needed to win and avoid a runoff or a coalition, but the jury is still out," Kealeboga Maphunye, a professor of politics at the University of South Africa, told Anadolu.

He believes the ANC might just squeak through owing to the advantage of being the ruling party.

Bonginkosi Ngwenya, a researcher at the Pretoria-based Human Sciences Research Council, said traditional parties still seem to have the numbers, but new entrants and smaller forces are heading into the polls with momentum.

Among them is uMkhonto weSizwe, or MK Party, formed and led by ex-President Jacob Zuma, the African Transformation Movement, and the Patriotic Alliance.

After a long legal battle, Zuma himself remains barred from contesting the elections, owing to his July 2021 conviction for contempt of court.

However, opinion polls still show MK Party is likely to be the biggest challenger to the ANC and other traditional opposition parties.

The party could halve ANC's support in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa's most populous province, according to a recent study by the Social Research Foundation think tank.

What are the main issues?

A raft of issues is expected to influence voter choices on May 29, including sky-high unemployment, corruption and rampant crime.

South Africa's unemployment rate currently stands at just under 33%, the highest in the entire world.

"That is a particularly thorny issue and it has been one of the key issues raised in campaigns by many political parties," said Maphunye.

Corruption is also a major problem, along with crime, particularly rape, with alarming rates in major cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town, he added.

Ngwenya, on the other hand, emphasized South Africa's energy crisis, which has forced measures such as rationing of electricity and rolling power cuts.

Other parties have also been raising the issue of undocumented migrants entering the country from neighboring states and Asian countries.

Both Ngwenya and Maphunye also pointed to Israel's ongoing war on Gaza, saying it has also features heavily in campaigns and in public rhetoric, given South Africa's leading role in the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. -

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