Monday, April 20, 2009



April 19 2009

South Africans go to the polls on Wednesday in their fourth democratic general elections.

However, the people will not be voting directly for president, they will be voting for parties, as part of an electoral process that will finally give them a president, 400 MPs for the national parliament, and the governors for the country’s nine provinces and their regional (provincial) MPs.

Councillors will be elected two years later.

In South Africa’s elections, competing parties normally nominate their preferred presidential candidates, who then become the face of the party in the race for State House.

By this time, and having used their own internal mechanisms, the competing parties have usually presented to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) a least of their preferred MPs for the national parliament.

Then allocates

After the votes for the various parties have been tallied, and the winner determined, the IEC then allocates the national parliamentary parties to the various parties depending on the percentage of the votes that each party has won. The system is called proportional representation. It is the national MPs who then elect the president.

The IEC was established through the Electoral Commission Act of 1996 to promote and safeguard democracy in South Africa.

The IEC is a publicly-funded body that is accountable to Parliament, but is independent of government.

The commission comprises five full time commissioners appointed by the president on the recommendation of the National Assembly.

The term of office of a member of the commission is seven years, unless he or she resigns or dies at an earlier date or is removed from office for reasons stated in the 1996 Act.

A clear advantage

In the last General Election, for instance, the ANC won 66 per cent of the national vote, giving it a clear advantage, which led to its candidate Thabo Mbeki becoming the president.

The ANC is this time round represented by Mr Jacob Zuma, and is poised to clinch the popular vote and eventually the presidency. Other leading candidates are Ms Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Rev Mvume Ndadala of the Congress of the People (COPE).

Other parties include the Inkatha Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Independent Democrats of (ID) of Patricia de Lille and the United Democratic Movement (UDM) of Bantu Holomisa.

It is note worthy that since a president ascends to office courtesy of his party’s victory, the party has the powers to recall him. A party that wins a two-thirds National Assembly majority, can change the constitution without the help of other parties.