Quick guide: know the difference between national and provincial elections

Do you know what you're voting for on May 8 2019?

02 May 2019 - 15:11
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Do you know what you’re voting for on May 8 2019?
Do you know what you’re voting for on May 8 2019?
Image: Niyazz/Shutterstock via The Conversation

Did you know ...

  • South Africans vote in national and provincial elections every five years.
  • In terms of the Constitution, the elections must be held within 90 days of the expiry of the sitting National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
  • The election date is proclaimed by the president of the Republic of South Africa.

What are national and provincial elections?

  • National and provincial elections are two different elections to choose representatives to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures. Although they are different elections, they are held on the same day.
  • Elections are an important way for people to debate and decide on their country’s future.
  • Elections also provide an opportunity for voters to put to use their constitutional rights.

What is the difference between national and provincial government?

The national government makes and carries out laws and policies for the whole country. It comprises:

  • Parliament, led by the speaker; and
  • the national government, led by the president and ministers.

Provincial governments make and carry out laws and policies that affect one province only. These comprise:

  • a legislature led by the speaker; and
  • the provincial government led by the premier and members of the executive council (MECs).

What are you voting for in national and provincial elections?

  • National vote: You are voting for a political party to represent you in the National Assembly.
  • Provincial vote: You are voting for a political party to represent you in the provincial legislature.

What electoral system is used in SA for the national and provincial elections?

  • The proportional representation (PR) system is used in SA for national and provincial elections.
  • The PR system awards seats to political parties according to the percentage of votes each party receives in an election.
  • Political parties submit a list of candidates to the IEC for the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures. Candidates are listed in their order of preference.
  • On election day, voters vote for the political party of their choice, not for individual candidates.
  • After counting, political parties are allocated seats according to the percentage each party received.

Advantages and disadvantages of the PR electoral system

  • An advantage of the PR electoral system is that it ensures that smaller political parties are included and represented. This means the legislatures are made up of people with different interests.
  • A disadvantage of the PR electoral system is that voters do not directly elect their political representatives to legislatures. Political party leaders decide who will represent voters in the legislatures. So the extent of accountability is weaker between voters and political representatives.

Visit the IEC website for more information. 

This article was paid for by the Independent Electoral Commission.


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