What are Coalitions?

In this podcast we explore the characteristics of coalitions in South Africa. This podcast is part of the Civics Academy Governance Series which explores different aspects of democratic governance. 

Coalitions are not uncommon in South Africa, particularly in municipalities. But what is a coalition? We speak of a coalition when two or more political parties agree to work together and to share power temporarily. This is usually because no single party has won a majority of the votes in an election.

Coalitions can have different objectives:

  • The most well-known objective of a coalition is for two or more political parties to govern together. The coalition is then aimed at securing enough votes, or enough seats in the parliament or council, to form a government and implement a common agenda. 
  • But sometimes the objective is broader, such as national unity. Coalitions can be formed to bring together as many parties as possible to achieve unity and/or reconciliation in society. 

In this video we will focus on the most commonly known coalition, aimed at forming and running a government. There are two reasons why these coalitions are important: 

  • The first has to do with the way MPs, MPLs and councillors are elected. We explain the election of public representatives in more detail in our Civics Academy videos How does the Electoral System work? and What is an MP?. In South Africa, elections always result in multiple parties being represented in Parliament, a provincial legislature or a municipal Council. But, if no party has more than 50% of the seats, two or more of them will have to join forces in order to achieve a majority.
  • The second reason has to do with the fact that the President, provincial Premiers and municipal Mayors are not directly elected by the voters, but indirectly by members of Parliament, the provincial legislatures or the municipal Councils. So a candidate for one of these positions may need more than the votes of their own party to win. They then need a coalition of parties to vote them into office.

The combination of these two aspects of our law makes coalitions important. 

Give us your feedback

Share this