(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance will consider whether to enter into an alliance with the incumbent ruling party to form part of the national government after next year’s elections.

Several opinion polls show the African National Congress risks losing the majority it’s held since the end of apartheid in 1994 in the upcoming vote, due to a backlash over its failure to tackle record power cuts and rampant unemployment. Should its support dip significantly below 50%, it would likely be forced into a partnership with either the business-friendly DA or the Economic Freedom Fighters, the third-largest party, which advocates the nationalization of mines and land. 

The DA will formulate a firm position on coalitions at its national conference in April and will give its leaders a clear negotiating mandate, leader John Steenhuisen said in an interview in Cape Town on Tuesday. 

“For me, the two nightmare scenarios for South Africa from an economic, business and social perspective, and a political perspective, are the ANC retaining a majority, or the ANC and EFF tying up,” he said. “I think that spells a fast track towards failed-state status. We would do everything we can to prevent those two scenarios taking place.”

The DA allied with several smaller opposition parties after a 2021 municipal vote to wrest control of major urban centers from the ANC, but the agreements have proved unstable and power has since changed hands in Johannesburg, the economic hub, and other towns.   

Read more: South Africa’s Richest City Picks Mayor From Party With 1% of Seats 

The DA is under “significant pressure” from business leaders and commentators to consider linking up with the ANC,” according to Steenhuisen. The decision isn’t that simple or clear-cut, but “it will have to form part of the thinking of the variety of scenarios in the post-2024 environment,” he said.  

Difficult Relationship

“There may well be a scenario” where the DA can work with the ANC, Steenhuisen said. “The ANC in its current form is unpalatable to us. We don’t want to do business with them in their current form, but who knows what the election result throws up.” 

The opposition leader said he currently had a “very difficult” relationship with President Cyril Ramaphosa, who hadn’t responded to his request to discuss the nation’s energy crisis, but added that there were a number of other ANC officials with whom he has a good relationship. 

The DA garnered 20.8% support in the last national vote in 2019, the ANC 57.5% and the EFF 10.8%. The DA’s electoral prospects were dealt a setback when several of its high-profile black leaders left. They included former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, who founded rival party Action SA that won 16% of the vote in the country’s biggest city in 2021, its maiden municipal ballot. 

“There are going to be some tough choices for the country to make about the pathway it decides to follow,” said Steenhuisen, who has led the DA since 2019 and will seek another term at its upcoming conference. “I do know that in the post-2024 environment, the DA will be at the heart of a new government in South Africa at the national level and certainly at the provincial level.” 

--With assistance from Rob Dawson.

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