South Africa - Politics

Politics

South Africa is a parliamentary republic, although unlike most such republics the President is both head of state and head of government, and depends for his tenure on the confidence of Parliament. The executive, legislature and judiciary are all subject to the supremacy of the Constitution, and the superior courts have the power to strike down executive actions and acts of Parliament if they are unconstitutional.

The National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, consists of 400 members and is elected every five years by a system of party-list proportional representation. In the most recent election, held on 22 April 2009, the African National Congress (ANC) won 65.9 per cent of the vote and 264 seats, while the main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA) won 16.7 per cent of the vote and 67 seats. The National Council of Provinces, the upper house, consists of ninety members, with each of the nine provincial legislatures electing ten members.

After each parliamentary election, the National Assembly elects one of its members as President; hence the President serves a term of office the same as that of the Assembly, normally five years. No President may serve more than two terms in office. The President appoints a Deputy President and Ministers, who form the Cabinet. The President and the Cabinet may be removed by the National Assembly by a motion of no confidence.

South Africa has three capital cities: Cape Town, as the seat of Parliament, is the legislative capital; Pretoria, as the seat of the President and Cabinet, is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein, as the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal, is the judicial capital.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South African politics have been dominated by the ANC, which has been the dominant party with 60–70 per cent of the vote. The main challenger to the rule of the ANC is the Democratic Alliance. The National Party, which ruled from 1948 to 1994, renamed itself in 1997 to the New National Party, and chose to merge with the ANC in 2005. Other major political parties represented in Parliament are the Congress of the People, which split from the ANC and won 7.4 per cent of the vote in 2009, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, which mainly represents Zulu voters and took 4.6 per cent of the vote in the 2009 election.

Since 2004, the country has had many thousands of popular protests, some violent, making it, according to one academic, the "most protest-rich country in the world". Many of these protests have been organised from the growing shanty towns that surround South African cities.

In 2008, South Africa placed 5th out of 48 sub-Saharan African countries on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. South Africa scored well in the categories of Rule of Law, Transparency & Corruption and Participation & Human Rights, but was let down by its relatively poor performance in Safety & Security. The Ibrahim Index is a comprehensive measure of African governance, based on a number of different variables which reflect the success with which governments deliver essential political goods to its citizens. In November 2006, South Africa became the first African country to legalize gay marriage.

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