Tue. Jul 23rd, 2019

Southern Express

The Voice of The Vulnerable

How your votes translate into seats

5 min read

Now that you’ve cast your “X” on the ballot paper, this is how the IEC will determine how many people will represent you in Parliament and provincial legislatures. 

South Africa has a proportional system for national and provincial elections, which means we vote for parties and not candidates contesting a ward. The political party then gets a share of seats in Parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes it got in the election.

This means almost every vote counts – the votes for parties who don’t get enough votes to win a seat in a legislature goes to the party already represented, which who was the closest to winning another seat. It is determined by a complicated mathematical method called the Droop quota.

National Assembly seats

The number of votes needed to win a seat depends on how many people vote. The National Assembly has 400 seats. Without delving too deep into the complexities, the number of valid votes cast in the national election are divided by 400. So if ten million people vote on May 8, a party would need 25 000 votes to get a seat.

Of the 400 seats, half are assigned to be elected from national lists and the other half are assigned to be elected from regional lists.

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) determines the allocation of the 200 regional list seats to each province by population. So, the bigger a province’s population, the larger portion of the 200 seats are assigned to that province. 

Let’s say a party wins 80 seats. Its members will come from a list it submitted to the IEC in March – 40 from the national list and the remaining 40 from the provincial lists.

So I vote for a party to be represented in Parliament, not for Cyril Ramaphosa/Mmusi Maimane/Julius Malema to become president?

That’s right. South Africa’s president isn’t elected directly by the voters. The task falls on the shoulders of the honourable members of the National Assembly. 

“As the legislative authority of our democratic republic, Parliament must ensure there is government by the people, under the Constitution,” reads a statement from Parliament. 

“The National Assembly must ensure this by choosing a president, by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, by passing legislation and by checking and evaluating executive action of government.”

It is a fancy way of saying they must elect the president. A member will nominate another member. If other members nominate another candidate, there will be a vote and the person with the most votes is elected president. 

When will this happen? 

Provisionally, on May 22.

Establishing Houses of Parliament

Electing the president isn’t the only thing that will happen on this day. In terms of the law, within 14 days of the IEC declaring the results of the election, the Houses of Parliament must be established. This happens at the first sittings of each of these Houses – the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

According to the Constitution, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has the power to determine the dates and times of these first sittings and presides over key aspects of them.

“Following consultations between officials of the Office of the Chief Justice (OCJ) and Parliament, the first sitting of the National Assembly is provisionally set for 22 May. The Chief Justice will officially declare the date of the first sitting in due course,” reads the statement from Parliament.

At this sitting, Mogoeng will preside over each member’s swearing-in or affirmation of faithfulness to the Republic of South Africa and obedience to the Constitution. The National Assembly may be constituted of no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 members. He will also preside over the election of the speaker of the National Assembly, who will preside over the election of the deputy speaker.

The Chief Justice will then preside over the election of the president, selected from among the Members of Parliament in the National Assembly. The president, once elected, ceases to be a Member of Parliament and must take up office within five days of being elected.

This happens when the President-elect, at the presidential inauguration, swears or affirms faithfulness to the Republic of South Africa and obedience to the Constitution and later announces the composition of the Cabinet.

NCOP

And what about the National Council of Provinces?

Filling the NCOP’s 90 seats works a bit differently. 

The NCOP consists of 90 provincial delegates – 10 delegates for each of the nine provinces. This means that each province is equally represented in the NCOP.

A provincial delegation consists of six permanent delegates and four special delegates, according to Parliament’s website. 

The nine provincial legislatures appoint the six permanent delegates from its members. The four special delegates consist of the premier of the province and three other special delegates assigned from members of the provincial legislature. They are selected by each province from Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs) and are rotated depending on the subject matter being considered by the NCOP. The premier of a province is the head of the province’s delegation but he or she can select any other delegate to lead the delegation in his or her absence.

The South African Local Government Association (Salga) has 10 representatives who may participate in the debates and other activities of the NCOP, but may not vote.

The first sittings of the provincial legislatures are also provisionally scheduled for May 22. The Chief Justice will, in accordance with his constitutional prerogative, announce the appropriate date in due course.  Additionally, the Chief Justice has also designated the Judges President of the divisions of the High Court to preside over the first sittings of the provincial legislatures. Provincial premiers and speakers will be elected at these sittings and the swearing in of Members of the Provincial Legislatures will also take place.

The provincial legislatures must also appoint their permanent delegates. Political parties are entitled to delegates in proportion of their representation. If a person who is a member of the provincial legislature is appointed as a permanent delegate, that person ceases to be a member of the legislature. At the first sitting of the National Council of Provinces, provisionally scheduled for May 23, following consultations between OCJ officials and parliamentary staff, the Chief Justice will preside over the swearing in or affirmation of faithfulness to the Republic of South Africa and obedience to the Constitution from the House’s permanent delegates.

The Chief Justice will also preside over the election of the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, who are selected from the permanent delegates. The chairperson will then preside over the election of the deputy chairperson, House chairpersons and the chief whip.

SONA

When is the State of the Nation Address?

The president is expected to deliver the State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of the sixth democratic Parliament in June.

By then, the parliamentary committees, which focus on specific government departments and entities, are expected to have been established, reads Parliament’s statement.

The work around the wrapping up of the fifth democratic Parliament and the transition to the sixth democratic Parliament is at an advanced stage, Parliament said in a statement.

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