The Holding of Presidential and National Assembly Elections

The President is elected for a five-year term and cannot hold office for more than three terms. Members of the National Assembly are also elected for a five-year term although the Constitution provides that National Assembly elections shall be held during the period starting at the beginning -of the 57th month and ending at the end of the 59th month of a session. According to the Elections -Act, the Electoral Commission announces, by notice in the Gazette, the date or dates on which the presidential or a National Assembly election should be held.

Appointment of Electoral Commissioners

Responsibility for the conduct and supervision of the registration of voters and of elections rests with the Electoral Commission, that is appointed by the President, from candidates proposed by a three member Constitutional Appointments Authority for a term of office of not more than seven years.

The Constitution provides for the President of the Republic and the Leader of the Opposition to each appoint one member to the Constitutional Appointments Authority and these persons in turn, by agreement, appoint a third member to serve as Chairperson. Where the two cannot agree, they must submit a list of not less than two and not more than three candidates to the President who then makes a final decision. The present members of the body were appointed by the Constitutional Commission which drafted the Constitution and on which all the main political parties at the time were represented.

The Electoral Commission is also responsible

  • the registrar of Political Parties
  • the body responsible for Delimitation of Electoral Boundaries (under continuous review and reports thereon to the National Assembly and the President)

The Constitution provides for the complete independence of the Electoral Commission and a number of provisions are laid down to guarantee this. The Electoral Commissioner’s allowances and salary are paid from the Consolidated Fund and cannot be altered to his or her disadvantage after appointment. He or she cannot be removed from office during their term unless for inability to perform the functions of the office, whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause, or for misbehavior.

Polling station staff (Electoral Officers, Assistant Electoral Officers and a number of assistants) are selected from a list drawn up by the Electoral Commission and approved by all the contesting parties.

The Funding of Political Parties

Under the Political Parties (Registration and Regulation) (Amendment) Act 1996, the registered political parties are entitled to monies from a fund (the Political Parties Financial Support Fund) appropriated by an Act of the National Assembly. The Registrar of Political Parties determines the total amount of financial assistance to be paid out of the fund on or before 30 January of each year.

Each registered political party which nominated candidates for the immediately preceding general election to the National Assembly is entitled to receive out of the total funds such sum as is equal to the percentage of valid votes cast in favour of the candidates nominated by that party. For 1997, a total of SR7.5 million was appropriated for assistance to political parties. By the year 2000, SR 0.5million was approved to share amongst political parties, all paid monthly by the Electoral Commission


There is no limit in law to either a party’s or an individual candidate’s campaign expenditure, but that Clause 94 of the Election Act 1995 stipulates that within 60 days after the results elections are declared, a candidate, party or party agent has to submit to the Electoral Commission a statement of funds received and expenditure incurred ( NOT INDICATING THE SOURCE OF FUNDING OR TO WHOM PAYMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO).

Franchise System

A direct franchise system was used for the 25 seats to the National Assembly (one per electoral district) on the basis of the first-past-the-post system. In addition, up to 10 seats would be filled by proportional representation, with the parties nominating a proportionally elected member for each 10 per cent of votes polled.

A constitutional amendment (Fourth Amendment Act) in 1996 had changed the necessary minimum share of the popular vote required for a party to gain a seat under the proportional representation allocation from 8 per cent to 10 per cent. The same constitutional amendment reduced the number of proportional seats from 11 to a maximum of 10.

The presidential election was by direct popular ballot. The voting age for both the presidential and the National Assembly elections is 18. There is no provision in the Constitution and the electoral law for postal or proxy voting nor for voting by diplomats serving abroad.

The Electoral Register

The Electoral Register is updated at the beginning of each year. All political parties subsequently expressed satisfaction with the Electoral Register.


Under the electoral law, candidates for the presidency and for the National Assembly are required to complete nomination forms issued by the Electoral Commission and also provide a deposit either in cash or in the form of a bank guarantee. The number of signatures required for nomination for the presidential election was 500 and the deposit was SR15,000. For the National Assembly elections the number of signatures required for each candidate was 50, with a deposit of SR 1,500 per candidate. A banker’s guarantee was accepted in lieu of a cash deposit for all nominations.

Under the electoral law, a candidate could object to the acceptance of a nomination paper of any other candidate on the grounds that the other candidate was not qualified to stand for the election or that the nomination paper did not comply with the requirements laid down by law The contesting candidates were therefore initially allowed by the Electoral Commission to inspect each other’s nomination papers on nomination day.

Identity Cards and Ballot Papers

A National Identity Card or passport, both of which show a voter’s National Identity Number, must be presented in order to vote. Voters whose names were on the register but who could not produce either of these documents, would be permitted to vote if their identity was not questioned by the electoral officials, security personnel as well as all the candidates/party agents present.

Role of the media

When election campaigning officially began, all party poadcasts on the media came under provisions in the Election Act 1995, (amended in 1996) which guarantees all parties and candidates the right to have their views poadcast. It also requires the Electoral Commission, in consultation with the national media poadcasting station, to allocate free and equal poadcasting time to parties and candidates.