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All about Friday's deadline for South Africa to form a coalition and elect a president

All about Friday's deadline for South Africa to form a coalition and elect a president
ANC members protest as Cyril Ramaphosa meets senior officials at the ANC National Executive Committee, June 6, 2024 in Johannesburg   -  
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Jerome Delay/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

South Africa

South Africa's parliament is due to elect a president on Friday and major political parties are still ironing out the final details of a coalition deal that may or may not allow Cyril Ramaphosa to return for a second term as president. most industrialized economy in Africa.

Mr Ramaphosa's party, the African National Congress , said it would hold a meeting of its top officials in Cape Town on Thursday evening, just 12 hours before Parliament meets in the city and begins the process.

South Africa has been in a political impasse since the ANC lost its 30-year majority in an election two weeks ago, forcing it to reach out to other parties to find some form of agreement in order to co-govern for the first time. The ANC's priority is to re-elect Mr Ramaphosa, but it will need help from other lawmakers as it no longer has a parliamentary majority .

No final agreement between the parties has been announced and the ANC's internal leadership must also formally approve any coalition.

How is the president elected?

South Africans elect a new Parliament every five years, voting for parties which are allocated seats based on their vote share. These deputies then elect the president. With the ANC in the majority since the end of white majority rule under apartheid in 1994, the election of the president was previously only a formality and the ANC leader was always elected.

This time it's different. Mr Ramaphosa, 71, could yet secure a smooth second term if he is the only candidate nominated by Parliament on Friday - he would then be automatically re-elected. But if one or more other candidates are nominated, a vote will follow and the ANC will need its coalition partners to guarantee Mr Ramaphosa's re-election.

Pieces of the puzzle

The Inkatha Freedom Party announced on Wednesday evening that it would join the ANC's proposed "national unity government" , the first piece of the coalition puzzle. He backed Mr Ramaphosa for a second term. However, the IFP holds only 17 seats in the 400-seat lower house of parliament, which elects the president, and the ANC needs more seats to reach the critical point of a joint majority.

The Democratic Alliance , the main opposition party, now holds the key with its 87 seats, the second largest number of seats behind the ANC's 159. The DA has not confirmed its entry into the unity government, although it has previously said it is willing to do so. She says she just needs to work out the details with the ANC. This is a crucial negotiation , and those talks are expected to continue on Thursday. An ANC-DA-IFP deal appears to be at the heart of any coalition at present.

However, the DA has been the most critical voice of the ANC over the past 20 years and bringing the two parties together to govern together is complicated. There is also some resistance within the ANC to reaching a deal with a party it has seen as its main political enemy for so long.

Opposition to the coalition

Two other major parties, former President Jacob Zuma's new MK party and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters party , have said they will not join a unity government. The MK also tried to have the parliament session interrupted in court, but lost its case. MK says its 58 new lawmakers will boycott Friday's first sitting of the new Parliament, but this is not expected to impact the president's vote.

The South African Constitution states that at least a third of Parliament's 400 MPs must be present for a quorum to be present and votes to take place. The ANC alone holds more than a third of the seats.


The chief justice will oversee the first part of the parliamentary session, during which lawmakers will take the oath of office before electing the president and vice president. Next comes the election of the president.

Eighteen political parties are represented in the South African Parliament for this five-year term, from the ANC, with 159 seats, to the Pan African Congress of Azania, the GOOD party and the United Africans Transformation party, with one seat each.

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