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South African Opposition Parties Merge in Bid to Unseat ANC in Elections

South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, signed a “memorandum of understanding” to complete a merger with the rival Independent Democrats by 2014, according to an e-mailed statement.

The parties plan to begin contesting elections under the banner of the Democratic Alliance at next year’s local government polls, according to the joint statement issued today. Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille as well as other senior party officials will become members of the Democratic Alliance, or DA, but will be allowed to hold dual membership until next year’s municipal elections, the statement said.

“This step takes us closer to building a new majority that can win elections across South Africa,” DA leader Helen Zille said in the statement. “This memorandum of the DA and the ID heralds the beginning of a new phase in our journey away from the politics of racial identity, towards the politics of shared values.”

Opposition parties face a tough task trying to unseat the African National Congress, which has ruled South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994 and won 65.9 percent of the vote in last year’s general election. The DA increased its share of the national vote in last year’s poll, the fourth democratic election since the end of apartheid, to 16.66 percent from 12.37 percent in 2004, while the ID’s share fell to 0.92 percent from 1.73 percent.

“This event today must merely be seen as the first step in the important task of consolidating the opposition and offering the voters a true alternative Government,” ID leader de Lille said in the statement. “We will not rest until we have brought all like-minded parties into this broad-based initiative.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Garth Theunissen in Johannesburg

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