South African President Ramaphosa set for reelection as DA gives backing

Cyril Ramaphosa is set for re-election as South Africa’s president after the country’s second biggest party said it would back the African National Congress (ANC) leader following a government coalition deal.

The ANC lost its majority for the first time in last month’s election and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties.

As the newly elected parliament convened on Friday, Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said his main opposition party had formally signed a coalition agreement with the ANC, and part of the agreement was Ramaphosa would be president.

Lawmakers are due to elect a president later in the day and the ANC and DA together have a majority of lawmakers that would see the 71-year-old return for a second term. In the May 29 polls, the AND gathered 40 percent of the vote, followed by the DA with 21 percent.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the coalition government, they said.

‘New era’

Ramaphosa could have a smooth passage to a second term if he is the only candidate nominated, in which case he would be elected automatically. But if other candidates are nominated by other parties, a vote follows.

The deal marks the start of a new chapter in South African politics, which has been utterly dominated by the ANC since it swept to power in the 1994 elections following the end of apartheid.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era where we put our differences aside and unite for the betterment of all South Africans,” Sihle Zikalala, a member of the ANC’s governing body, said in a post on X.

The ANC was also facing a deadline to pull together a coalition agreement of some sort given parliament must sit for the first time and vote for the president within 14 days of the election results being declared. The deadline is Sunday.

Friday’s sitting is expected to take hours, with the 400-member parliament first electing a speaker and deputy speaker before the vote for president.

At least one party, the MK Party of former ANC leader and South African President Jacob Zuma, has said it will boycott the first sitting and its 58 lawmakers will not take their seats.

That is not expected to affect the voting procedure as South Africa’s constitution says that at least one-third of the 400 lawmakers need to be present for a quorum and for votes to take place. The ANC has more than a third of seats on its own.

South Africa has not faced this level of political uncertainty since the ANC swept to power in the first all-race election in 1994, ending nearly a half-century of white minority rule under the apartheid system of racial segregation.

The ANC has held a clear majority in parliament ever since then, meaning elections for president were formalities and every South African leader since has been from the ANC, starting with Nelson Mandela.

Parliament will also convene in an unusual setting after a fire in 2022 gutted the National Assembly building in Cape Town. So lawmakers will decide the next leader of their country at a conference centre near the city’s waterfront.

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