How coalition governments are formed and how South Africa elects the president

Published Jun 5, 2024


South African voters have decided that none of the over 50 political parties who contested the May 29 elections were worthy of a clear majority win. When this happens, the political parties with the most votes - like the ANC with it’s 40% - will require assistance from one or more parties to form a coalition government.

This past weekend, the ANC entered into discussions with the DA, EFF, IFP and others as it looks to form a government after failing to get 50% of the vote for the first time.

An ANC spokesperson said talks had been fruitful.

In South Africa, the National Assembly elects the president rather than the people directly. Through a proportional representation system, each party is allocated a certain number of seats in the National Assembly, determined by their percentage of the national vote.

Subsequently, the 400 members of the National Assembly - who are elected by the voting public, elect the president. President Cyril Ramaphosa will require 201 vote to be re-elected as president.

In the recent 2024 general elections, the ANC attained 40% of the vote (or 159 seats), the DA 21.8% (87 seats), the MK party got 14.58% (58 seats), the EFF 9.52% (39 seats) and the IFP - 3.85% (17 seats).

This means the ANC requires 42 seats to form a government.

The 40% votes amassed by the ANC represented a 17% decline for the governing ANC, who are now expected to form a National Government of Unity with the DA, EFF, IFP, PA and the NFP.

Coming out of the 1994 elections, despite the ANC winning those elections with a clear 60%+ majority, the ANC government entered into a Government of National Unity with the likes of the National Party and the IFP.

In the last administration, Patricia De Lille of GOOD, was a Cabinet minister, heading up the Public Works and later the Tourism portfolio.

This time however, it is out of necessity and not will, as the ANC looks set to share power with the DA, EFF, IFP and others.

The agreement would involve sharing power and responsibilities, with each party having a say in decision-making processes.

Forming a coalition government requires compromise and negotiation, as parties may have different policy priorities and objectives.

The agreement could potentially see one party, the DA for example, being given legislative oversight in Parliament, while the other parties such as the EFF, IFP, PA and NFP could be given Cabinet positions.