Photo: IEC

Election Results: How local and metro council seats are allocated

The candidate with the most votes on the ward ballot wins the ward but allocating local or metropolitan council seats is more complicated. This is how the IEC crunches the numbers.


Photo: IEC

After the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) tallies all the votes cast in the 2021 Local Government Elections, the seat allocation takes place. The municipal elections in SA use a mixed system to allocate seats.


The Electoral System for Local Government uses a mixed electoral system – half the seats in metro and local councils are allocated according to proportional representation (PR) combined with ward representation, or first-past-the-post, in terms of Section 157(2) of the Constitution.

The PR system protects the interests of smaller parties and their constituents because every vote counts. Even parties with a tiny share of the vote will receive a seat.



Schedule 1 of the Municipal Structures Act, 117 of 1998 determines the number of seats available, according to the IEC. The City of Johannesburg, for example, has 270 seats, while the City of Tshwane has 214 seats.

The total seats for a municipality are divided equally (50/50) between the ward and PR. For example, if there are 21 seats available on the council, 10 would be PR councillors and 11 would be Ward councillors (ward councillors are rounded up if they are a fraction).

Screenshot from LGE 2021 Municipal Elections Electoral System


Your local ward councillor is simply the person who wins the most votes on the ward ballot – first-past-the-post. Parties and independent candidates are allocated ward seats according to how many votes they receive.

In this example, there were 11 ward candidates (7 from political parties and 4 independents).

Party A: 1

Party B: 2

Party C: 2

Party D: 1

Party E: 1

Determining the makeup of the local and metro council’s is rather more complicated.


Next, the total overall seats for each party in the municipality (excluding the seats won by independents) must be determined.

According to the IEC, a quota must be calculated by dividing the number of valid votes cast for all parties (ward and PR) by the total number of seats (ward and PR – 11 and 10 in this case) minus the seats won by independent candidates.

“The result, plus one, is the quota,” according to the IEC.

For example: 35 000 (total votes for parties) / 21 (total seats) – 4 (seats won by independents) + 1 is 35 000 / 17 = 2, 059 (QUOTA)

Calculating total party seats

In this example, when the 4 independent seats are removed it means that 17 seats are up for grabs for political parties.

To determine the first allocation of seats for each party, the total valid votes (ward and PR) received by that party must be divided by the quota.

For the first allocation, the fraction/decimal is ignored. So, 5,65 would just be 5 seats. The fraction is used to determine which party receives the leftover seats if there are any. The first and second allocation is used to determine the party’s final total seat allocation.

For example

Party1st allocationRemainderRank2nd allocationFinal allocation
A: 5300 / 2,059 = 2,5720,57312 + 1 = 3
B: 7700 / 2,059 = 3,7430,74213 + 1 = 4
C: 8900 / 2,059 = 4,3240,32 04 + 0 = 4
D: 8100 / 2,059 = 3,9330,93113 + 1 = 4  
E: 5000 / 2,059 = 2,4320,43 02 + 0 = 4


To determine the number of proportional list seats allocated to a party minus the total number of ward seats won by a party from the total seats won by a party.

For example:

Party A: 3 (total party seats) – 1 (ward seat) = 2

Party B: 4 – 2 = 2

When the calculations are done the PR seats available to all parties will add up to 50 percent of the total seats available in the local council or metro (as explained earlier).

The final makeup of the example local/metro council

In most cases, the metropolitan council picks the mayor. The party with the most seats has the most voting power.

IndependentsParty AParty BParty CParty DParty ETotal: 21
Ward: 4Ward: 1Ward: 2Ward: 2Ward: 1Ward: 1Ward: 11
PR: N/APR: 2PR: 2PR: 2PR: 3PR: 1PR: 10