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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

When coalitions fail: A possible runoff for president?

EXPLAINED: What the Constitution says about choosing a president and what happens when Parliament can't agree.

In just a few weeks South Africans will know who will be president for the next five years, but, if no party can get a majority or work with others to do so, we could face a parliamentary face-off.

While some have predicted the ruling ANC will hold on to power, many analysts have predicted the country will be led by a coalition government after this month’s polls. The coalition will likely be made up of several parties working together.

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What does the Constitution say?

According to the Constitution, the president must be appointed at the first sitting of parliament within 14 days of election results being announced and within 40 days of the last sitting of the previous parliament.

There, nominations of MPs to be president will be heard and a president chosen from the national assembly.

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If only one member of parliament is nominated for president that person is elected.

“If more than one candidate is nominated, a vote must be taken at the meeting by secret ballot. Each member present must cast one vote and the person presiding must declare elected the candidate who receives a majority of votes.”

A party with the majority of votes in the election, and so a majority of its members in parliament, will see their preferred candidate nominated. Coalition agreements made before the parliamentary sitting will also likely mean that a majority vote is achieved.

But what if there is no majority?

A runoff for president

The Constitution says that if two or more members are standing for president and no majority has been reached, the person with the lowest number of votes must be eliminated “and a further vote taken on the remaining candidates”.

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“This procedure must be repeated until a candidate receives a majority of votes,” it adds.

But if the last two candidates receive the same amount of votes, which is possible in a 400-member parliament, another meeting needs to be called.

This meeting must be held within seven days.

There, further rounds of voting will take place until a majority is reached.

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