Mandela’s Presidency, Political Developments
South African parliament, President Mandela, interim constitution, legislative elections, Constitutional Assembly
The South African parliament approved a new constitution in May 1996. The right-wing Freedom Front, which seeks to establish an Afrikaner homeland, abstained from the vote in parliament. The representatives of the IFP did not participate in the session at all. IFP representatives refused to participate mainly because the party advocates more autonomy for the provinces than the ANC is willing to allow. The new constitution excludes any discrimination based on race, gender, age, or sexual orientation, and abolishes the death penalty.
One day after adoption of the new constitution the NP decided to split from the coalition government. The NP contended that the new constitution did not provide shared power at the executive level or any form of joint decision-making. The NP also hoped that by leaving the government it would be able to establish itself as a viable opposition party.
In September 1996 the Constitutional Court declined to certify the new constitution because it failed to meet the terms of the interim constitution regarding the role of provincial government. The court ruled that the new constitution gave the nine provinces substantially fewer powers than the interim constitution required. By the end of the year, members of the Constitutional Assembly redrafted the constitution to meet the court’s requirements, and the final version was approved by parliament in December. The new constitution was implemented in stages between 1997 and 2000.
In late 1997 President Mandela retired as party leader of the ANC and was replaced by executive deputy president Thabo Mbeki. Mandela, who announced in 1996 that he would not seek another term as president, groomed Mbeki to succeed him. In June 1999 legislative elections the ANC won two-thirds of the seats in the National Assembly and selected Mbeki as South Africa’s president.
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