A guide to what's next for South Africa and the key figures in unprecedented coalition talks

South Africa’s election has decided little, other than the African National Congress that liberated the country from apartheid in 1994 has lost its 30-year majority

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — South Africa's election has decided little, other than the African National Congress that liberated the country from apartheid in 1994 has lost its 30-year majority.

It remained the biggest party, though. With no one holding a majority, South Africa's party leaders are embarking on coalition talks to form a government. South Africa has never had to do this due to the ANC's long dominance.

There are four major political parties and at least eight with significant shares of the vote after last week's election. It'll be complicated.

Here's a guide to some of the key figures and what might be coming next as South Africa enters uncharted territory.

PRESIDENT CYRIL RAMAPHOSA

Once a protege of Nelson Mandela, Ramaphosa, 71, has now overseen the worst election result in the ANC's history. He is under pressure within his own party as well as with voters, but he managed to laugh when an official made a slip Sunday and referred to him as the "extinguished" president rather than distinguished. "I'm not yet extinguished," Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa's challenge is to guide his party to a coalition he sees as best amid different factions within the ANC. The obvious choice is the main opposition Democratic Alliance. Between them, they would have enough seats in Parliament to govern. But the DA has been fiercely critical of the ANC's policies for years and the marriage wouldn't be an easy one, even if both have said they are open to discussions.

Another option for the ANC is to join with one or both of the two other main opposition parties, the uMkhonto weSizwe party, or MK party, and the Economic Freedom Fighters. That could be damaging for South Africa's image with foreign investors given MK and the EFF have both pledged to nationalize South Africa's important gold and platinum mines and the central bank.

Ramaphosa's presidency is in the balance given a coalition agreement also has to translate into reelecting him for a second term. South Africans vote for parties in elections to decide how many seats they get in Parliament. Lawmakers then elect the president and the ANC now doesn't have enough lawmakers on its own to reelect Ramaphosa.

JOHN STEENHUISEN

Steenhuisen, 48, is the main opposition leader as head of the centrist DA and the only white leader among the four main parties. He said his party was also initiating talks with various parties, except MK and the EFF. The DA has drawn a line there and said it will never work with those two over ideological differences.

Getting Steenhuisen's DA and Ramaphosa's ANC together is widely viewed as the most stable coalition option by analysts. Some have suggested that other smaller parties could be brought in to create a wider coalition and dilute the ANC-DA mix.

FORMER PRESIDENT JACOB ZUMA

Zuma was the leader of the ANC and president of South Africa until he was replaced by Ramaphosa in both positions. They've become fierce rivals. Zuma, who is 82, was the wildcard of this election after only announcing his political comeback in December. His newly formed MK Party had a huge impact by winning 14% of the vote and taking some of the ANC's support to become the third biggest party in its first election.

Zuma's party has demanded Ramaphosa step down as a condition for a coalition, a mark of the personal animosity. The ANC rejected the condition. While it would seem there's little for them to work with to come together, MK does now have a significant vote share and seats in Parliament.

Zuma, who has served a prison sentence for contempt of court, is due to go on trial next year on charges of corruption. He was barred from running for a seat in Parliament in this election because of his criminal record.

JULIUS MALEMA

Malema's EFF party lost support in the election to drop to the fourth biggest party behind MK. Malema is the youngest of the major leaders at age 43 and also has old ties to the ANC as its former youth leader before he was expelled for misconduct.

Renowned as a firebrand, his party follows a Marxist ideology but there's some common ground between it and the ANC and the EFF was raised as a logical coalition partner for the ANC before MK overtook it and reduced its significance. Because of their differences, the inclusion of the EFF and MK in any coalition may result in the DA pulling out.

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