South African lawmakers have started debating a no-confidence motion that could drive long-serving President Jacob Zuma from office.
Zuma has survived previous no-confidence votes since first taking office in 2009, despite constant allegations of corruption and criticism of his economic stewardship. The country is mired in deep recession and high unemployment, and its credit ratings have been downgraded since Zuma fired Finance Minister Pravin Gordham in March.
Tuesday’s motion is the first to be held by secret ballot, giving hope to opposition lawmakers that enough members of the ruling African National Congress party will provide the necessary votes to remove the president. The ANC holds 249 seats in the 400-seat parliament, meaning 50 ANC lawmakers will have to break ranks and vote with 151 opposition lawmakers.
The ANC’s iconic status as leader of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement under the late Nelson Mandela has diminished under Zuma, suffering its worst electoral showing in local elections last year.
Even if Zuma loses the no-confidence vote, he will still serve as ANC president until he leaves the post in December as planned.