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African Elections | South Africa General Elections: All you need to know

South Africa General Elections: All you need to know
PC: Katlego/Twitter


Nearly 28 million South African registered voters are voting to elect representatives to the national and provincial parliaments.

This election is historic for multiple reasons. First, it will mark the seventh democratic election since the end of apartheid in 1994. Second, it will be the first time independent candidates are allowed to contest due to a new bill signed into law in 2023.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC), once led by the late Nelson Mandela, has dominated South African politics for the past 30 years. However, polls have shown that this election will be the toughest yet for the ANC and its current leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

But how does the South African electoral system work? What are the main political parties, and what are the key issues voters will consider in making their voting decision?

 This article addresses these issues and explores the potential outcomes, including when the results will be announced and who is likely to emerge victorious.

Major political parties

About 70 political parties are competing in this crucial election, with the focus being on the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

The ANC, historically dominant, is facing stiff competition from the DA and the EFF. President Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC, John Steenhuisen of the DA, and Julius Malema of the EFF emerge as prominent figures hoping to lead the country if their party triumphs. Another prominent figure is a former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma, who now leads the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party.

How does the South African electoral system work?

South Africa employs a proportional representation system for its elections. This  means that seats in both the national and provincial parliaments are allocated based on the percentage of votes each party receives.

Voters cast three separate ballots: one for a political party in the national parliament, one for a party or independent candidate representing their province in the national parliament, and one for the provincial legislature.

The National Assembly comprises 400 members, with 200 members elected from national party lists and the remaining 200 from provincial party lists.

After the general election, these 400 members of the National Assembly vote to elect the President within 30 days.

This indirect election system means that the party or coalition with a majority in the National Assembly effectively determines the President.

Key issues for voters

Key issues influencing voter sentiment include high unemployment (currently the highest in the world at 33%),  endemic corruption, crime, and service delivery challenges with electricity and water challenges being prominent.

Who is likely to win the election?

The ANC, the largest political party in South Africa may struggle to maintain its majority in the upcoming 2024 general elections due to the increasingly competitive nature of the political landscape and the dissatisfaction among South  Africans with the ANC government:  Recent polls suggest the ANC could obtain around 44.8% of the vote, necessitating a coalition to govern.

The support of the DA and EFF, along with the MK Party which is led by former president Jacob Zuma, would be crucial in forming the next government if the ANC fails to secure the majority as predicted by the polls.

John Steenhuisen of the DA has indicated a willingness to form a coalition with the ANC to prevent an ANC-EFF-MK alliance.

If the ANC retains power, Incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa is likely to remain president for another five years.

When will the results be released?

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will start releasing partial results within hours of the polls closing. The final results are expected to be announced by Sunday, 2nd June.

 However, provisional results will provide an early indication of the likely outcome within a day or two after voting closes.

Follow the African Elections Project on Facebook and Twitter @Africanelection for more updates.