South Africa’s Shift to Democracy

South Africa’s Elections 1994

In 1994, voters lined up for hours in queues stretching over a kilometre long to cast their votes. It was the first time that all South Africans could vote in a national election.

In the United States, conservative talk radio helped Newt Gingrich nationalize the elections by campaigning on his Contract with America. Republicans won the midterm elections that year.

South Africa’s first democratic elections

The elections of April 1994 marked a major milestone for South Africa. They were the first to shift control of the government from white minority rule to black majority rule. They swept Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress to power, and opened the door to a post-apartheid future.

Voting took place over a four day period, with nearly 20 million people casting their ballots. Throughout the process, South Africans stood in long lines to vote; many had never before been allowed to do so.

The ANC and its allies won in seven of the nine provinces. The ANC gained its first majority in the Senate, and a Constitutional Assembly was established to write the new national charter. The elections were certified as free and fair by the Independent Electoral Commission. Official restrictions on media and human rights monitoring were lifted. However, violence in townships remained a significant threat to the process. Hundreds of local and international observers monitored the election, with the consent or under the supervision of the IEC.

Elections in the United States

The United States holds elections for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. The nation’s head of state is elected indirectly by the people through the Electoral College system, while the United States Congress is directly elected by the people.

Each State allocates its electoral votes according to its own policy. In most States, a candidate must win a majority of the votes (270) to become president.

The election process varies by State, and the Constitution gives States wide latitude in how they conduct their elections. There are many overlapping federal and state elections, including gubernatorial, legislative, and mayoral races. In addition, there are numerous citizen initiatives and other local offices on the ballot. After the election, each State’s electors meet to vote for president and vice president. After the meeting, each State’s executive prepares a Certificate of Vote which is sent to NARA as part of the official records of the presidential election.

Elections in the United Kingdom

Generally, elections are held every five years for the House of Commons and devolved parliaments and assemblies. But general elections can be called earlier by the prime minister, and there are also local and mayoral elections, as well as police and crime commissioner elections.

The UK operates under first-past-the-post voting, in which the political party that receives the most votes in each constituency wins a seat. This system is regarded by some as outdated and undemocratic, as it tends to produce one-party governments, but supporters argue that it delivers results that reflect popular opinion.

Candidates stand on behalf of political parties, which vary in size and must register with the Electoral Commission. Voters mark two ballots: one for a candidate in each constituency and another for the political party of their choice. Parties must submit regular reports on donations and loans. The Electoral Commission publishes results and analysis for each election. British, Irish and qualifying Commonwealth citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote.

Elections in France

As in the United States, registered voters receive a ballot with every official candidate’s platform and a set number of tickets (each representing one seat in France’s 566 legislative seats). Voters then go to their assigned polling stations (often schools) to cast them.

Since the first round of presidential voting, polls have consistently indicated that Emmanuel Macron will face Marine Le Pen in the second. This has lent a new urgency to the parliamentary elections.

The left-wing NNESS and the center-right Ensemble electoral coalitions are trying to capitalize on the momentum of Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, and both have a good chance of winning a large share of the votes. Nonetheless, the system’s Two-Round Vote and relative centralism will make it very difficult to win a majority. The results are expected to highlight the increasing polarization of French politics, and the marginalization of the former systemic parties. In particular, it is very likely that the far-right vote will become more concentrated and dispersed, while the right’s traditional core constituency will continue to abstain from the electoral process.

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