What unrepresented Political Parties and Independents need to Qualify for the Ballot

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South Africa’s 2024 National and Provincial elections are scheduled to take place on the 29th of May. These elections represent thirty years of democracy as well as thirty years of uninterrupted African National Congress (ANC) governance nationally and in most provinces. A raft of opinion polls speculate that this uninterrupted ANC governance may change nationally, or at the very least, in some provinces, although the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape have not always been governed by the ANC since 1994. Thus, given the polls, the 2024 elections may be the beginning of the era of “substantive uncertainty” in which the outcome of the elections begins to become uncertain. This has incentivised more political parties to contest elections and since the constitutional court ruling of 2020, independent candidates too. This article will restrict itself to outlining what new political parties and independents need to do to contest the national or provincial ballot, especially in the context of there being new requirements for unrepresented political parties to appear on the ballot.


  • 115 political parties have submitted candidates to run for the National Assembly whereas 107 political parties have submitted candidates for provincial legislatures.
  • This is the first election that mandates a signature requirement for parties to be eligible to submit party lists for the National Assembly or the Provincial Legislature.
  • This will be the first election where independents will be allowed to contest alongside political parties for seats in either the National Assembly or the nine provincial legislatures.

Firstly, political parties must register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Registering a party at the national level requires the signatures of 1000 registered voters as well as a R5000 registration fee, in addition to other requirements such as having a name, acronym, logo, colours and constitution. To register at a provincial level, 500 signatures are required whereas a R3000 registration fee is payable. This then entitles the party to be eligible to, subject to further requirements as outlined below, submit candidate lists for either the National Assembly or the provincial legislatures. There are currently more than 350 registered political parties.

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Deposit Amounts

Parties can contest either of the two National Assembly ballots as well as any one of the nine provincial ballots (ballot 3). For registered political parties that are not currently represented in parliament to be eligible to contest elections, they have to pay a deposit and fulfil a signature threshold. The deposit amount and number of signatures required depend on which ballots the party chooses to contest.

With regards to the deposit amounts, R200 000 is needed for parties that only want to contest for the 200 national seats (also referred to as compensatory seats). If parties want to contest for the 200 national seats as well as regional seats, the party would then have to pay R200 000 plus an additional R25 000 for every region that the party wants to contest. If a party wants to contest for all national and regional seats (i.e: all 400 NA seats), they must submit a deposit of R300 000. Furthermore, if parties want to contest for provincial legislatures, it will cost the party an additional R50 000 per provincial legislature. As such, if a party seeks to contest all ballots it would cost the party R750 000, (R300 000 + (R50 000 x 9=R450 000)).

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Signature requirement

In addition to the deposit amounts that parties must pay in order to submit candidates to public office, new parties have to reach a signature requirement for each of the ballots they intend to contest. The required number of signatures depends on which ballots they intend to contest. The number of required signatures is equal to fifteen percent of a seat’s quota from the last (2019 in this instance) election. A quota is the average number of votes it took to gain one seat in Parliament in the preceding election.

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Each province, thus differs in terms of the number of signatures required to run for the regional seats, this is because the quotas (number of votes needed for one seat) differ. Therefore, for a new political party to appear on the ballot to contest the Eastern Cape’s regional seats, it would need the signatures of 11 656 voters who are registered to vote in the Eastern Cape, similarly, political parties who would like to appear on the ballot in the Free State’s regional seats would need at least 11 340 signatures from voters registered in the Free State.

The reason the IEC requires this threshold is to show that the parties contesting have some support, in order to justify their inclusion on the ballot

For political parties to run for the 200 National seats, they would simply need to receive signatures equal to 15 percent of the quota for the highest province, which in this case, is Gauteng’s number of 13 890 signatures. In other words, political parties seeking to contest the 200 National seats would need to receive 13 890 signatures from anywhere within the country.

Provincial Ballot

Political parties wanting to contest for seats in the provincial legislatures would also need to receive signatures equal to 15 percent of that province’s (2019) quota.

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Thus, for a political party to be allowed to be on the ballot to contest a seat for the Eastern Cape Legislature, it would require 4 627 votes, 15 percent of the 2019 election’s quota of 30 847 votes. Similarly, in the Free State, parties would require 4 286 votes.

Why impose such a quota

The imposition of such a quota has been the subject of much debate. It has been argued, by some, that the 15% signature requirements would disadvantage newer and unrepresented political parties. The reason the IEC requires this threshold is to show that the parties contesting have some support, in order to justify their inclusion on the ballot. The reasoning is that if a party cannot receive signatures equal to 15% of what it would take to win a seat in the previous election, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to win one seat in either the National Assembly or the provincial legislature.

Without the signature requirements, all 356 registered political parties as well as “independent” candidates would be eligible for a place on the ballot. Such a ballot would be unworkable and counterproductive to an efficient election. Considering that only one day of voting is scheduled, having such a long ballot would prolong voters’ abilities to find their preferred political party or candidate, especially where there are three separate ballots. This would lead to unusually long lines, long days at polling stations and generalised delays in tabulating, counting and verifying the results.

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Therefore, the idea of the signature requirement is to limit the number of non-viable or opportunistic political parties contesting the ballot. The election deposits and signature requirements serve two purposes: a. they serve to reduce the prevalence of unscrupulous and joke contestants, and b. they serve to test a minimum level of connection between a contesting party and the electorate in a purely proportional representation system, and candidate to their constituency in a first-past-the-post system. Serious and genuine contestants who demonstrate a minimum threshold of support are typically refunded their deposit. An alternative idea for this would be to impose a vote threshold that political parties must achieve to be represented in the National Assembly. This idea is currently practised in a small handful of African countries including Mozambique, Rwanda (both 5%), Burundi (2%) and Benin (10%). It is also practised in other countries including Germany (5%), Sweden (4%), Indonesia (4%), New Zealand (5%), South Korea (3%), Italy (3%), Turkey (7%) and Argentina (3%). The requirement of a threshold in South Africa would require a constitutional amendment and would likely not find favour with smaller parties.

Requirements for Independent Candidates

To contest an election, an “independent” candidate would require 1000 signatures of registered voters and would need to pay a deposit. An earlier requirement of between 11000 and 14000 signatures was overturned by the Constitutional Court, which ruled this to be “unconstitutional”. Like political parties, independent contestants also pay a deposit, which amounts to R20 000 for the region they contest. For contesting for a seat in the Provincial Legislature, an “Independent” candidate would pay a deposit of R15 000.

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The South African Elections Weekly Briefs are produced through a partnership between The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, Media Monitoring Africa and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. The purpose of the partnership interventions is to strengthen peaceful and inclusive participatory electoral processes in South Africa.