ALMOST 16 million of South Africa's 22.3 million voters will be voting for the first time.
They will vote for 28 parties on two separate ballot papers - one national and one regional. The national ballot will elect 400 representatives to the National Assembly, which will write the nation's new constitution. Of the 400, half will come from national party lists and half from regional party lists under a proportional representation system.
Regional seats in the National Assembly will be apportioned between the nine provinces according to population. The tiny but heavily populated province that includes Pretoria and Johannesburg gets 43 seats, whereas the sparsely populated Northern Cape gets only four. The regional ballot will elect 224 representatives to nine provincial assemblies - also on a proportional basis. (See chart).
On April 26, about 250,000 South Africans living abroad had the opportunity to vote at embassies, and prisoners, the disabled, and the elderly at special polling stations inside the country. All others vote on April 27 and 28.
Voter identity will be established by identity documents; there is no voter registration. Invisible ink will be used to ensure that a voter only votes once. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which is organizing and adjudicating the poll, has eight days to hear contested results.
The new president will be elected by Parliament (the majority party) on May 6 and inaugurated on May 10. Nine regional premiers will be inaugurated on May 5. Within 30 days of the vote, regional assemblies will elect 10 senators each to an upper house of Parliament.
The IEC will deploy some 190,000 electoral staff and about 14,000 monitors at polling stations. Some 20,000 community-based monitors under the National Election Observer Network will make an independent assessment.