What we know ahead of Friday’s deadline for South Africa to form a coalition and elect a president


CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa’s parliament will elect a president Friday and major political parties are still training the final details of a coalition agreement who may or may not see it Cyril Ramaphosa return for a second term as leader of Africa’s most industrialized economy.

It seems likely that things will go down the drain after Ramaphosa African National Congress Party said it will hold a meeting of its top officials in Cape Town on Thursday evening, just 12 hours before Parliament convenes in the city and starts electing the president.

South Africa has found itself in a political impasse since the ANC lost its thirty-year majority in the elections two weeks ago, which forced this approach other parties for some kind of agreement to co-govern for the first time. The ANC’s first priority is Ramaphosa’s re-election, but it will need help from other lawmakers because it no longer has a parliamentary majority.

No final agreement between the parties has yet been announced and the ANC’s internal leadership must also formally approve any coalition. Here’s what we know about the country main political negotiations in three decades.

How the president is elected

South Africans elect a new parliament every five years and cast their votes for parties that are allocated seats based on their share of the vote. Those lawmakers then choose the president. Because the ANC had a majority since the end of white majority rule under the apartheid system in 1994, the vote for president was previously a formality and there was always an ANC leader.

This time it’s different. The 71-year-old Ramaphosa could still get a smooth ride to a second term if he is the only candidate nominated in parliament on Friday – he would then be automatically re-elected. But if another candidate or candidates are nominated, a vote will follow and the ANC will need its coalition partners to secure Ramaphosa’s re-election.

First piece of the puzzle

The Inkatha Freedom Party Announced Wednesday evening that it would join the The ANC’s proposed ‘government of national unity’ the first piece of the coalition puzzle. It backed Ramaphosa for a second term. But the IFP has only 17 seats in the 400-seat lower house of parliament that elects the president, and the ANC needs others to reach the critical point where they have a joint majority.

The key piece

The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, now holds the key with its 87 seats, the second highest after the ANC’s 159. The DA has not confirmed that it has joined the unity government, although it has previously indicated its willingness to do so. It says it just needs to work out the details with the ANC. Those are the crucial negotiations, and those talks were expected to continue on Thursday. An ANC-DA-IFP agreement now appears to be at the heart of any coalition.

However, the DA has been the ANC’s most critical voice over the past two decades and bringing the two parties together to govern jointly is complicated. There is also some resistance within the ANC to striking a deal with a party it has long regarded as political enemy number one.

Opposition to the coalition

Two other major parties, the new ones MK party of former president Jacob Zuma and the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters have said they will not join a unity government. MK too tried to stop the session of Parliament to court, but lost his case. MK says its 58 new lawmakers will boycott the first session of the new parliament on Friday, but that should not affect the presidential vote.

According to South Africa’s constitution, at least one-third of the four hundred MPs must be present for a quorum to be reached and for the vote to proceed. The ANC itself holds over a third of the seats.

What will happen

The chief justice will oversee the first part of the parliamentary session, when lawmakers are sworn in before the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected. Then comes the vote for president.

There are 18 political parties 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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