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Boosted by Gaza war, South African Muslim party open to deal with ANC

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By Nellie Peyton

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s small Muslim political party Al Jama-ah is gaining support due to the conflict in Gaza and sees itself as a potential coalition partner for the African National Congress after next week’s vote, its leader said on Wednesday.

Solidarity with the Palestinians is a popular position in South Africa, where many people liken their treatment by Israel to the plight of its own Black majority during apartheid — a comparison strongly rejected by Israel.

South Africa has also taken Israel to the World Court on accusations of genocide, which Israel denies.

Polls suggest that the ANC, which has governed South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994, could lose its parliamentary majority for the first time in the election on May 29, forcing it into coalition with one or more parties to stay in power.

“The ANC can count on us,” Ganief Hendricks, Al Jama-ah’s leader and sole member of parliament, told Reuters.

South Africans will elect a 400-member parliament, which will then elect the country’s president by majority vote.

If the ANC gets close to 50% of votes, which translates into 50% of parliamentary seats, analysts say it could likely enlist a few small opposition parties to keep its leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa, in power.

Hendricks said the ANC had already approached Al Jama-ah for support, although the ANC says publicly it expects to win the election outright and is not planning to form a coalition.

“The ANC came to see me and told me ‘look… we are five seats short in terms of our number-crunching, and we’re going to approach you for those five seats’,” he said.

The ANC declined to comment beyond referring to its previous public statements.

Recent polling has put the ANC at around 45%, meaning it would be 20 seats short of a majority. Al Jama-ah is too small to be included in national polls, but Hendricks said it was aiming to get 10 seats, or about 2.5% of the national vote.

Al Jama-ah is already in a coalition government with the ANC and the leftist Economic Freedom Fighters in Johannesburg, where the current mayor Kabelo Gwamanda is a member of Al Jama-ah.

(Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Alison Williams)

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