We’ve voted – what next?

Now that election day is passed, what happens next? The South African Constitution lays out the procedures to be followed after every general election…

PROCEEDINGS AFTER AN ELECTION

According to Section 57 of the Electoral Act, No 73 of 1998, the Independent Electoral Commission has fourteen days within which to declare the official election results. The announcement date for the 2009 election results has been set for 26 April. Soon after the announcement, the IEC will begin with the allocation to political parties of the 400 seats in the National Assembly using the lists submitted to it by political parties prior to the election. The lists contain the names of candidates for the National Assembly in a fixed order of preference, as determined by the party. The number of seats that each party gets will be in proportion to the number of votes that the party received in the election. The IEC will on the 29th of April 2009 publish in the government gazette the 400 members of the fourth democratic parliament.

FIRST SITTING OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY AFTER AN ELECTION

According to Section 51 (1) of the constitution, “the first sitting of the National Assembly must take place at a time and on a date determined by the President of the Constitutional Court, but not more than 14 days after the election result has been declared” . The first sitting of the fourth democratic parliament as well as the nine provincial legislatures will be on the 6th of May 2009. The National Council of Provinces will hold its first sitting on the 7th of May 2009. The Chief Justice who is also the head of the Constitutional Court will presides over the first sitting of the fourth democratic parliament.

Section 52 and 86 of the Constitution lays out the issues to be dealt with at the first sitting of parliament after an election. These issues include the swearing in of all members, the election of both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and the election of the country’s President.  The first item on the agenda will be the swearing in of new members who affirm their faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution, in accordance with Schedule 2 of the constitution. Once members have been sworn in, the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court will announce the procedure for the election of both the Speaker and the President. According to Section 52 (2) of the Constitution, the Chief Justice must preside over the election of the Speaker while the Speaker must preside over the Election of the Deputy Speaker. The Chief Justice also presides over the election of the country’s President.

A secret ballot will only occur if there is more than one candidate nominated for each of the above position. Procedures for a secret ballot will be held in “accordance with Schedule 3, Part A, of the Constitution and the rules made by the Chief Justice. Schedule 3 makes provision for procedure in the event of a deadlock” .

ASSUMPTION OF OFFICE BY PRESIDENT

When elected President, a person ceases to be a member of the National Assembly and within five days, must assume office by swearing or affirming faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution in accordance with Schedule 2. The inauguration of the state President will take place on the 09th of May 2009. The official opening of Parliament during which the President will deliver his First State of the Nation Adress will follow this event. Both these events will take place on the 3rd of June 2009. Thereafter, all parties represented in the National Assembly will hold debates on the state of the Nation Address. The then Minister of Finance will also table his budget before parliament followed by a similar debate as well.

OTHER ISSUES TO BE CONSIDERED AFTER AN ELECTION

There are many other issues to be considered by the new parties represented in parliament including size and membership of committees, the allocation of speaking time in debates, the number of whips per party and the allocation of opportunities for questions and Members’ Statement. Party proportions determine all these issues

The setting up of parliamentary portfolio committees in both houses will take place on the week of the 11th to the 15th of May 2009, while the induction programme for all members will be from 12-22 May 2009. The current speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Gwen Nkabinde-Mahlangu  states that the purpose of the induction and training is “to provide Members with knowledge required to settle into and function in Parliament, understand the processes and business of Parliament and perform work of Committees efficiently and effectively. However, the project will not provide a long term training programme for Members as this is covered by the Leadership Programme and Legislative Support Programme” .

ETHICS AND MEMBERS’ INTERESTS

According to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, members must within 30 days of the opening of parliament after an election, and once a year after that, disclose to the Registrar, on the form provided for this purpose information of their financial interests including those of their spouses, dependents and permanent companions. Failure to do so will result in certain penalties.

TIMETABLE FOR PROCEEDINGS AFTER THE 2009 ELECTION

Event     DATE

Elections    22 April 2009 (Wednesday)
Official Results    26 April 2009 (Sunday)
Designated List    29 April 2009 (Wednesday)
Registration of Members    4 May 2009 (Monday)
5 May 2009 (Tuesday)
1st Sitting of the National Assembly    6 May 2009 (Wednesday)
1st Sitting of the Provincial Legislatures    6 May 2009 (Wednesday)
1st Sitting of the National Council of Provinces    7 May 2009 (Thursday)
Members Travel to Pretoria to attend 2009 Presidential inauguration     08 May 2009
Inauguration of President    9 May 2009 (Saturday)
Setting up of Committees in both Houses    Week of 11th to 15th May 2009
Induction and Training of all members of Parliament    12-22 May 2009
State of the Nation Address    03 June 2009

Source: Parliamentary Monitoring Group and the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.

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