Ruled Out

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South Africa’s constitutional court ruled Monday that former President Jacob Zuma cannot run in the upcoming May 29 parliamentary elections, a decision that is likely to increase political turmoil ahead of the crucial vote, Voice of America reported.

The top court said the former anti-apartheid leader cannot hold a seat in the country’s parliament and run as a candidate because of his 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021.

Under South Africa’s constitution, individuals sentenced to more than 12 months in prison are barred from holding a parliamentary seat.

Monday’s ruling is tied to Zuma’s falling out with the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

In 2018, Zuma resigned as president following widespread allegations of corruption in his administration and pressure from the ANC to step down.

Three years later, the constitutional court sentenced him to 15 months in prison for failing to testify at a public inquiry on corruption.

His arrest sparked days of riots that killed more than 300 people. He was later given parole on medical grounds and received a presidential pardon from his successor and current rival, Cyril Ramaphosa.

Zuma’s disqualification comes as the ruling ANC is facing its toughest election since it took power 30 years ago. Opinion polls show that the party could lose its majority in parliament for the first time and will have to rely on smaller parties to form a coalition.

Its biggest challenger is the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, a political group formed by Zuma in December. MK is popular in Zuma’s home province and the party has attracted many voters who have become disillusioned by the governing ANC, the New York Times wrote.

While the former president cannot run in next week’s polls, South Africa’s electoral commission said that Zuma’s face can still appear on the ballots.

Even so, some observers warned that the court’s verdict could trigger new violence in the country ahead of the vote: Shortly after the ruling, Zuma’s supporters took to the streets of Johannesburg to protest the verdict.

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