What if nobody gets 50%?


What if nobody gets 50%?

In his latest election update, political analyst JP LANDMAN looks at new parties, how a president gets elected if no party gets 50%, and how many ballot papers each voter will get.

IT is now official: more than 50 parties will contest the national elections in May, compared to the 48 in 2019.

The new kid on the block and the party with the most media coverage is, of course, Jacob Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party. After the Independent Electoral Commission barred Zuma from standing, he predictably appealed and won. He will no doubt be the face on the party’s posters. The ANC has also asked the high court to ban the MK Party from using the name uMkhonto we Sizwe as that is ANC property.

While that legal process unfolds we can consider the possible impact the MK Party may have.

The table below compares the average results of polls before and after the MK Party was formed.

The MK Party has taken support from the ANC, EFF and IFP. It also looks as if it has put a lid on EFF support. Both observations are confirmed in by-election results in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The party did quite well in the by-elections, largely at the expense of the other three parties. The strongest support for MK is in KZN, where polls give it an average in the high 20s, more than any other party.

The MK Party probably benefited from a bounce in the polls and the by-elections with all the hype and novelty around its formation. But novelty wears off. Whether MK can sustain the bounce as the election campaign unfolds remains to be seen. Also, an opinion poll average does not make an election result.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

The day after the election

The election result is uncertain, and uncertainty is likely to be compounded the day after the election. If the ANC drops below 50%, with whom will it form a coalition? Which coalitions will be formed in the provinces likely to see no majority party? Are KZN and Gauteng the only provinces where there is uncertainty about the majority party?

As I discussed in my last note, I believe an ANC/EFF coalition at national level is unlikely. Ditto an ANC/MK coalition. If the ANC misses the 50% threshold by a small margin, it will probably team up with the IFP. If it drops to less than 45% of the vote, it will have to look at a bigger party. That points to the DA. It is interesting that in the past week, the leaders of the IFP and the DA expressed themselves in favour of working with the ANC under certain circumstances.

The procedure if nobody gets over 50%

A reader has asked how the president will be elected if no party gets to 50%.

The constitution sets out the process. Parliament must meet for its first session within 14 days of the election results being declared. The election is on Wednesday, May 29, so the final results should be declared by the evening of Saturday, June 2. This means parliament must meet by Sunday, June 16 at the latest, with the chief justice presiding.

At that meeting, a president must be elected from among the 400 members of the National Assembly. If no candidate receives a majority (ie. 201 votes), the candidate with the least number of votes will be eliminated and voting will take place again. This procedure will be repeated until one candidate gets the required votes.

In the unlikely event that the last two candidates get the same number of votes, parliament must reconvene within seven days and vote again. (That obviously leaves time for horse trading and making deals). If a new president is not elected within 30 days, parliament must be dissolved and a new election called. The president and cabinet will remain in their positions in an acting capacity until a new president and cabinet are sworn in.

I don't think anyone in the country has the stomach for another election within three months. So, the pressure on the parties to agree on a candidate to become president would be enormous.

Three ballot papers

This year, each voter will receive three ballot papers instead of two. The reason is the inclusion of independent candidates.

  • The first ballot paper consists of political parties only, and voters will choose one as their favourite. This vote is for the first 200 members in the National Assembly.
  • The second ballot paper consists of the same list of parties, but now independent candidates are added. Voters can choose a party or an independent candidate. From this ballot, another 200 members of the National Assembly will be elected. The National Assembly consists of 400 people. There are only six independent candidates standing for the National Assembly: one in the Western Cape, two in Gauteng and three in Limpopo. In the six provinces where no independents have made themselves available, voters will not have the option of voting for an independent.
  • The third ballot paper is for the provincial legislature. It will be a combination of political parties and independents running in that province and voters must choose one. There are 63 parties and six independents contesting the nine provincial elections.

(After all the hullabaloo of changing the electoral system so independents can run, it is a meagre harvest.)

So what?

  • If the MK Party can hold on to the support claimed in various polls, its main impact would be to undercut the ANC and, paradoxically, put a lid on EFF support.
  • The Multi-Party Charter (MPC) coalition polls at about 33%, which is far away from the 50% needed to form a government.
  • Some of the MPC parties may well join a coalition government with the ANC — nationally and/or in some of the provinces.
  • But let’s first wait for the election results.

Happy voting!

♦ VWB ♦

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