South Africa’s ANC seeks coalition after losing its majority for 1st time

South Africa’s African National Congress will invite other political parties to form a national unity government, its leader President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday, after it lost its majority for the first time in the democratic era.

The former liberation movement once led by Nelson Mandela has run South Africa since it swept to power in a 1994 election that marked the end of white minority rule. But it was punished for its checkered record in last week’s vote.

After a day-long meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said the ANC had decided that a broad collaboration with other political forces was “the best option to move our country forward.”

“Political parties should come together to forge a common future for our country,” he told a news briefing. “We must act with speed to safeguard national unity, peace, stability, inclusive economic growth, non-racialism and non-sexism.”

Despite its worst ever showing in the May 29 vote, the ANC remains the country’s largest party and will control 159 of the 400 seats in the new National Assembly.

The election outcome has created a complex situation for Ramaphosa and his party.The ANC’s nearest rivals are the pro-business, white-led Democratic Alliance (DA), with 87 seats; the populist uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) led by former President Jacob Zuma, with 58; and the hard-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with 39.

“We will not preclude the possibility of working with any party so long as it is in the public interest,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that the ANC had already held constructive discussions with the EFF, DA, the smaller Inkatha Freedom Party, National Freedom Party and Patriotic Alliance.

MK confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it had been in contact with the ANC and a meeting was expected soon.

Africa’s most developed economy has been in decline for the past decade, with sluggish growth, high levels of poverty and unemployment, crumbling infrastructure and political corruption.

“The purpose of a government of national unity must be first and foremost to tackle the pressing issues that South Africans want to be addressed,” Ramaphosa said.

The new parliament has to convene within two weeks of Sunday’s results declaration and one of its first acts must be to elect the president.

The constitutional deadline, which will fall on or near June 16, is putting pressure on the ANC and others to reach an agreement quickly.

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