Polls Are Open In South Africa’s High-stakes Election

Polls Are Open In South Africa’s High-stakes Election

South Africans began voting Wednesday in what is being billed as their country’s most important election in 30 years, and one that could thrust their fledgling democracy into unfamiliar territory.

The African National Congress party, which led South Africa out of apartheid’s brutal white minority rule in 1994, is defending its three-decade dominance. It is now the target of a new generation of discontent in a country of 62 million people, with half estimated to be poor.

Africa’s most advanced economy faces some of the world’s most serious socioeconomic challenges, including one of the highest unemployment rates at 32%. The lingering inequality, with poverty and unemployment disproportionately affecting the Black majority, threatens to unseat the party that promised to end it.

After winning six consecutive national elections, several polls show the ANC’s support is less than 50% ahead of this one, an unprecedented drop. It may lose its parliamentary majority for the first time despite being widely expected to hold the most seats.

Support has been fading. In the most recent national election in 2019, the ANC received 57.5% of the vote, its lowest percentage ever. Any change in the ANC’s power structure could have far-reaching consequences for South Africa. If the ANC loses its majority, it may have to form a coalition with others.

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