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South African Election Process

South Africa is a representative democracy based on a parliamentary system. The Parliament has two houses, the upper National Council of Provinces and the lower National Assembly. National and provincial elections are held every five years, with voters casting two secret ballots, one for the National Assembly and one for the Provincial Legislature. Ballots are cast for political parties.

Within the South African parliamentary system, voters do not directly choose their president. Instead, they select from an array of candidates representing as many as 32 parties for the Parliament. The parties that win seats in Parliament can then nominate their leaders or another member for the Presidency. The nominees, in essence, then become candidates again.

To win, they must jockey for support among their colleagues and parties to secure votes. National Assembly members vote for one presidential nominee, a choice usually determined by party affiliation.

The president serves a five-year term. No person may hold office as president for more than two terms.

Various polls throughout this year indicate that President Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) party will receive approximately 60 percent of the vote. If so, pollsters predict ANC leader and Deputy President Thabo Mbeki will be Mandela’s successor.