South Africa: Nomination of candidates

Updated April 2011

Extracted from: Susan Booysen & Grant Masterson 2009 "Chapter 11: South Africa" IN Denis Kadima and Susan Booysen (eds) Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa 1989-2009: 20 Years of Multiparty Democracy, EISA, Johannesburg, 408-409).

Any political party wishing to contest outh Africa's National Assembly elections is required to submit, among other things, a list of candidates to the IEC for all positions in the government. This is in line with South Africa's use of a list-based, proportional representation electoral system. The intra-party procedures for producing these lists differ from party to party, and are not prescribed by the Electoral Act itself.

The detailed candidate nomination requirements for each political party that intends competing in national and/or provincial elections in South Africa are to provide a:

  • national list of nominated candidates for the National Assembly (maximum 200 candidate names);
  • regional list of nominated candidates for the National Assembly (maximum 200 candidate names);
  • provincial list of nominated candidates for any and all provincial assemblies in which the party wishes to compete (the maximum number of names depends on the size of the provincial legislature);
  • copy of each candidate's identity document - specifically the page on which the candidate's picture, name and identity number appears;
  • in 2009 R180 000, equivalent to US$18 500 per party competing in the national elections; and
  • in 2009 R40 000, equivalent to US$4 450 per party competing in each of the provincial elections (Electoral Act 1998, 73; IEC 2009).

[The substantial amounts required of parties for the national list (R180 000) and each of the provincial list submissions (R40 000) discourage the frivolous participation of the proliferating number of registered parties (see Party registration, election contestation and representation trends].

The calculations for the allocations of seats are governed by the Electoral Act No. 73 of 1998 and the Electoral Commission Act No. 51 of 1996. Once each party is allocated its proportional seats in the National Assembly, the candidate lists form the basis for the nomination of candidates to the party's seats. Each seat in the National Assembly requires approximately 0.25 per cent of the national vote.

The Electoral Commission's 2009 election timetable (see Setting election dates) set the cut-off date for the submission of candidates' lists at seven weeks prior to the election, namely by 17:00 on 2 March 2009. A few days later parties received notice of non-compliance with the list requirements, and parties were given four days to correct the problems. Then followed the opportunity for public inspection of the lists, a date was given for objections to the list to be registered, the Commission ruled on objections, there was a period of appeal, and then came the publication of the final list of party candidates, which was published 19 days before polling day (The Star 2009, 13).

The nomination processes of the two biggest 2009 parties, the ANC and DA, illustrate variation within the process of candidate nomination. Whereas the bigger parties have relatively elaborate processes, anchored in forms of internal democracy, the smaller parties often nominally work through formal party structures, whilst leadership frequently has direct nomination powers:

[For the relative performance of parties in terms of gender representation in their candidate lists see Women's representation in the main parties' lists in 2009]

Addendum: 2011 local elections

A total of 121 parties fielded candidates for the 2011 local government elections, compared with 97 in 2006 and 79 in 2000; only two wards were not contested (see 2011 Local election candidates by party for details). A total number of 10 055 seats were up for contestation, 4 277 ward seats and 5 778 proportional represtation seats. The proportion of women candidates was 36.8% (see 2011 Local election candidates by province and gender for details).


Electoral Act, 73 of 1998, [www] [PDF document, opens new window] (accessed 26 Feb 2010).

IEC 2009 "Regulations concerning the submissions of lists of candidates".

The Star, 26 February 2009.