South Africa’s New Three-Ballot System Explained: Deciding Who Runs South Africa
Michelle Hinrichsen
April 8, 2024

When you vote in the 2024 South African elections, you're participating in a process that determines who makes the big decisions for the country and your local area. For the first time in South Africa, your influence is channelled through three different ballots, each serving a unique purpose in shaping the National Assembly and your provincial legislature.

In this article, we are going to focus on South Africa’s new three-ballot system for this year’s elections. Before we start though, here’s a quick look at what a ballot actually is: A "ballot" is a piece of paper you use to vote in an election. It lists the names of the people running for office and the different parties that need your vote. When you vote, you pick your choice on the ballot by making a mark next to the name of the person, party, or answer you want to vote for. After you're done marking your choices, you submit the ballot to be counted. This way, your vote is kept secret, and nobody knows who you voted for.

What You Need to Know About South Africa’s Three Ballots

1. Regional Ballot for the National Assembly

  • Purpose: This ballot is about choosing who represents your province on a national level.
  • Choices: You'll see a list of party candidates and independent candidates. Your vote here can help elect candidates from your region to the National Assembly.
  • Impact: Electing a regional representative ensures that your area's interests are considered in national decisions.

2. Proportional Representation (PR) Ballot for the National Assembly

  • Purpose: This ballot determines the overall composition of the National Assembly based on the proportion of votes each party receives.
  • Choices: Only parties are listed here. You're voting for the party you believe should have a say in national governance, not specific individuals.
  • Impact: This vote influences how many seats each party gets in the National Assembly, affecting which party might form the government and its strength in making national policies.

3. Provincial Legislature Ballot

  • Purpose: To elect the legislative body that governs your province.
  • Choices: Parties and independent candidates running in your province are listed. Here, you're choosing who you trust to make decisions at the provincial level.
  • Impact: Your vote helps decide the balance of power in your provincial legislature, impacting local governance and policies.

How Your Vote Decides Who Runs South Africa

  • National Assembly: The combination of your Regional and Proportional Representation (PR) ballots influences who controls the national government. The PR ballot helps allocate the total number of seats each party receives in the National Assembly. The total number of independent candidates elected in the regional elections is subtracted from 400 to determine the seats in the National Assembly to be awarded to parties. The party (or coalition of parties) with the majority of seats usually forms the government, and their leader often becomes the President of South Africa.
  • Provincial Legislature: Your vote on the provincial legislature ballot decides which parties and candidates will govern your province, shaping policies and initiatives closer to home.

What Happens Next?

After all the votes are counted, the seats in both the National Assembly and provincial legislatures are distributed based on the results. This system ensures a fair representation of the people's will, both nationally and provincially. It's a way of making sure that every voice is heard and has a say in the country's and your local area's future direction.

By casting all three ballots, you're directly influencing the composition of both the national and provincial governments, helping to decide who runs South Africa and how it's run. It's your chance to contribute to the democratic process and shape the future of the nation.

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

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