How Independent Candidates Change the Elections Game in 2024
Michelle Hinrichsen
April 8, 2024

The 2024 elections in South Africa mark a pivotal evolution in the country's democratic process, introducing significant reforms that could reshape the political landscape. Among the most noteworthy changes are the allowance for independent candidates to run in national and provincial elections and a nuanced approach to counting votes. These adjustments are designed to foster a more inclusive, representative electoral system.

The Rise of Independent Candidates

Historically, South African politics have been dominated by party-affiliated candidates, with the electoral system designed primarily around party lists. However, following a Constitutional Court decision in 2020, the Electoral Amendment Act of 2023 set the stage for a more diversified field, allowing individuals not affiliated with any political party to contest in both national and provincial elections.

Independent candidates represent a broad spectrum of society, offering voters alternatives beyond the traditional party lines. This inclusion aims to bring fresh perspectives to governance, encouraging a closer connection between elected officials and their constituencies.

Understanding the Voting Process for Independent Candidates

With the introduction of independent candidates, the voting process sees a significant overhaul. Voters are now presented with three ballots:

  1. Regional Ballot for the National Assembly: This ballot allows voters to choose among regional candidates, including independents, ensuring localised representation.
  1. Proportional Representation (PR) Ballot for the National Assembly: Exclusively featuring political parties, this ballot determines the overall seat distribution based on the proportion of votes each party receives across the nation.
  1. Provincial Legislature Ballot: Mirroring the regional ballot's structure, this allows for the selection of provincial representatives, including independent candidates.

This three-ballot system is crafted to balance direct representation through individual candidates with the proportional influence of political parties. You can read more about it in detail here.

The Mechanics of Vote Counting with Independent Candidates

Counting votes in an electoral system that now includes independent candidates adds layers of complexity to the process. The key to understanding this lies in distinguishing between the direct election of candidates in regional and provincial ballots and the proportional allocation of seats in the PR ballot for the National Assembly.

National Assembly:

The total number of seats is influenced by the votes cast on both the regional and PR ballots. Independent candidates, if elected through regional ballots, directly secure seats, thereby affecting the proportional allocation of remaining seats to parties.

Provincial Legislatures:

Similar to the National Assembly, but on a provincial level, with the presence of independent candidates potentially altering the traditional party-based allocation of seats.

In both cases, the inclusion of independents necessitates a recalibration of seats based on the actual votes received, ensuring that the representation in legislative bodies accurately reflects the electorate's will.

Your Informed Vote Counts

The introduction of independent candidates in the 2024 elections represent a significant shift towards a more inclusive and representative South African democracy. These changes not only empower voters with more choices but also challenge the existing political dynamics, potentially leading to a governance landscape that better mirrors the diverse aspirations and concerns of the South African populace.

As the country gears up for these landmark elections, understanding the role of independent candidates and the nuances of the vote-counting process becomes crucial for voters aiming to make informed decisions that will shape the future of their nation.

To find out who will be on the ballot on May 29th, click here.

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