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Country Reports

South Africa has voted

by Henning Suhr

ANC loses support – Ramaphosa does not

Despite a significant loss in votes, the African National Congress (ANC) is the clear winner of the 8 May national and provincial elections. President Ramaphosa receives a five-year mandate to pull the country out its economic doldrums. The next months will show whether the 57.5% of votes cast in favour of the ANC grant Ramaphosa enough power to marginalize his party opponents, many of which have an undesirable and corrupt reputation even within their own party. With regards to opposition parties, the radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) managed to win over many of the lost ANC voters, while electoral support for the liberal Democratic Alliance (DA) slightly declined for the first time. A low voter turnout of only 66 percent can be read as an expression of voter dissatisfaction in both ruling and opposition parties. Over the longer term, the country will transition to coalition governments, as indicated by the election result in the economic heartland of Gauteng: here, the ANC scraped into a position of absolute majority by only the thinnest of margins.

The sixth national and provincial elections of South Africa failed to surprise. The ANC won 57.5 percent of votes and hence 230 of the 400 seats in the national parliament. As a consequence, the ANC leader, Cyril Ramaphosa, will rule the country for the next 5 years with a comfortable majority. Compared to the 2014 election results, the ANC lost 4.65 percent and continues its 15-year downward trajectory. That the perennially ruling party did not lose more votes is almost certainly thanks to Ramaphosa, whose popularity extends beyond party lines. He was the right candidate for the ANC, given his ability to act as statesman on the global stage and yet be in tune with his grassroots supporters in the townships. In addition, he managed to distance himself from his predecessor Jacob Zuma and his corruption scandals. Voters accepted Ramaphosa’s claims that he would fight corruption and embezzlement while re-building the integrity of state institutions. They will hold him to these promises in the next legislative period.

Positive „Ramaphosa Effect“

The positive effect of Ramaphosa on the electoral fate of the ANC can be deduced from the fact that the ANC fared significantly better in the national than provincial ballot. Some voters expressed their support for a national government under Ramaphosa’s leadership on the national ballot, while voting against the ANC provincially. Of ten million ANC voters, at least 640,000 split their vote in such a way. “Vote splitting” may indicate growing democratic maturity in the electorate, as it requires a thorough understanding of structure of the electoral system. Previous elections did not show such a scale of split voting.

You can download the complete country report as a PDF file.​​​​​​​

Contact Person

Henning Suhr

Henning Suhr bild

Head of the KAS office in South Africa

Henning.Suhr@kas.de +27 11 214 29 00 +27 11 214 29 13/14
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The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung is a political foundation. Our offices abroad are in charge of over 200 projects in more than 120 countries. The country reports offer current analyses, exclusive evaluations, background information and forecasts - provided by our international staff.