South Africa election: ANC set for 'complicated' coalition talks after losing parliamentary majority

The chair of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa says it can "talk to everybody and anybody", as it looks likely to need a coalition partner after losing its parliamentary majority.

The once-dominant party of the late Nelson Mandela has seen its support slashed, receiving just over 40% in the landmark national election, with 99% of the votes counted.

The final results have not yet been formally declared by the independent electoral commission that ran the contest in the nation of 62 million people - but the ANC cannot pass 50%.

It means a flurry of negotiations are set to take place which are likely to be complicated.

The main opposition party, John Steenhuisen's Democratic Alliance (DA), was on 21%, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new party led by former president Jacob Zuma, got 14%, while the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), led by ex-ANC youth leader Julius Malema, received 9%.

In total, more than 50 parties took part in the election, many of them with tiny shares of the vote.

The ANC, which freed the country from apartheid in the early 1990s, has won every previous national election by a landslide since the historic 1994 vote that ended white minority rule.

But over the last decade, its support has dwindled amid widespread poverty, a stagnating economy, rising unemployment, and power and water shortages.

The official unemployment rate in South Africa is among the highest in the world at 32%.

The poverty disproportionately affects black people, who make up 80% of the population and have been the core of the ANC's support for years.

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There will now be an urgent focus on coalition talks as parliament needs to elect a president within 14 days of the final election results being officially declared.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, of the ANC, is looking to be re-elected for a second and final term.

"We can talk to everybody and anybody," said Gwede Mantashe, the ANC chair and current mines and energy minister, as he dodged a question from reporters about who the party was discussing a possible coalition deal with.

Far-left leader Julius Malema, whose EFF party has got 9%, said: "We have achieved our mission... to bring the ANC below 50%. We want to humble the ANC."

"We are going to negotiate with the ANC" for a possible coalition deal, he said, although that would not be quite enough to clinch a majority without including another party on the current count.

"The way to rescue South Africa is to break the ANC's majority and we have done that," said main opposition leader John Steenhuisen.

Meanwhile, MK party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlela said: "We are willing to negotiate with the ANC, but not the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa."

The strong performance of Jacob Zuma's MK party, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, was one of the main reasons the ANC failed to secure a majority.

One option for the ANC could be a "government of national unity" involving a broad spectrum of many parties, rather than a formal coalition between a few, say analysts.

But Mr Malema said the EFF was against that idea and preferred to be part of a coalition.

Nearly 28 million South Africans were registered to vote and turnout is expected to be around 60%, according to figures from the independent electoral commission.