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Explainer – What Next for South Africa, Following Unprecedented 2024 Election Outcome?

The ANC does not have a majority in the national assembly and requires the support of other parties. It is currently in talks with several opposition parties.

South Africa’s 2024 national election results have been officially announced, with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) failing to secure a majority for the first time since 1994.

Parties from across the political spectrum are in talks to form a government. Several analyses and opinion editorials have explored the available options, from coalition agreements between unlikely partners to a minority government.

In this explainer, we go back to the basics. With no party obtaining an outright majority, what will parliament look like? What is a coalition government? And what happens if opposition parties cannot agree on a way forward?

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Political parties receive a share of seats in parliament in direct proportion to the number of votes they got in the election.

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The 2024 election included a regional ballot, allowing independent candidates to contest for the first time. The results from the regional ballot were factored into the seat calculation, according to a complex formula.

Based on the calculation, 18 parties will share 400 seats in the national assembly. No independent candidates received enough votes to get a seat.

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Parties will fill these seats according to ranked candidate lists submitted to Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the most senior judge of the constitutional court and head of the judiciary of South Africa.

Candidates will be sworn into parliament at the first sitting of the national assembly which must take place within 14 days after the results of the election have been declared. This is according to the South African constitution.

This means the first sitting of the national assembly should take place on or before 17 June. At the first sitting, members of parliament must elect the speaker, the deputy speaker and the president.

The president is elected via a call for nominations. If there is more than one candidate, a secret ballot is held, where each member of parliament is entitled to cast a vote.

According to Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, it is likely that there will be more than one candidate, even if it is a symbolic or “token” nomination.

The uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party, formed in December 2023, received 14.6% of the vote in its debut election. It has rejected the election results and threatened to boycott the first sitting of the national assembly.

A quorum is the minimum number of members of a group necessary to be present at a meeting. For the national assembly, the quorum is one third – or 133 members.

The MK Party has 58 seats in the national assembly. If all its members boycotted the first sitting, there would still be 342 members left – more than enough for a quorum.

The ANC alone has enough seats – 159 – to meet the quorum and proceed with the first sitting.

The constitution outlines only one scenario in which the 14-day deadline for the election of a president may be extended. Where two candidates receive the same number of votes, another meeting must be held within seven days.

A coalition government exists when two or more political parties combine their votes to form a government.

The ANC does not have a majority in the national assembly and requires the support of other parties. It is currently in talks with several opposition parties.

There is no set formula or procedure for forming a coalition government. The relevant political parties would ideally negotiate a partnership before the first sitting of the national assembly. But a final coalition agreement does not need to be in place by this time. Political parties may have preliminary agreements about which candidate to nominate as president, with coalition talks continuing even after the first sitting.

A minority government exists when the governing party does not hold a majority of seats in parliament. In this scenario, it can be difficult to pass legislation.

If it is unable to form a coalition, the ANC might consider forming a minority government. It could sign agreements with other political parties to vote together on crucial issues, such as the budget, but may have to lobby for support on other legislation.

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