President Elected by Parliament – Problematic or Not? by Winnefred Monu, 14 March 2011

Sign Outside Parliament

“In democratic countries such as South Africa, the legislature or Parliament plays a vital role. The members of Parliament are elected to represent the people of the country.” “They also act as the voice of the people. Parliament, therefore, is accountable to the people of South Africa.”
Our very first visit in Cape Town, South Africa was to the South African Parliament. The buildings of the Parliament were breathtaking but the history behind the formation of the Parliament was even more fascinating. Our tour guide informed us that the Parliament consisted of two Houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. The National Assembly is the House directly elected by the voters, while the National Council of Provinces is elected by the provinces and represents them to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government.
The National Council of Provinces has 90 seats and 10 members are elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five year terms; while the National Assembly has 400 seats and  members  are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms.  The parliament is responsible for making and passing laws. The National Assembly also chooses the President and is a national forum where issues are debated publicly. The African National Congress is currently the majority party in the National Assembly. Before the Apartheid, the ANC did not have a vital role in the functions of the South African parliament.
As mentioned, the National Assembly chooses the President and from how I believe our tour guide explained it, whoever the majority party is of the National Assembly, the president of that party is elected President of South Africa. Basically, the citizens of South Africa do not elect the President of South Africa; they indirectly elect the President by voting for one of the parties during the National Assembly election. My only critic of this type of system, where the President is chosen by the National Assembly and not elected by popular vote is that the people of South Africa have no direct influence in who is elected or chosen to rule their country. Does this system reflect the will of the people? Is the ideology of a party representative of the ideology of every single member of that party?  On different types of issues each member of a party may have radical or moderate ideologies on these issues. I find it a bit problematic that South African citizens do not have the chance to question or challenge the member of a party who is chosen to be President of South Africa before he is elected.

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