These were the third elections held since the end of the apartheid era. The South African National Assembly consists of 400 members, elected by proportional representation. Two hundred members are elected from national party lists, the other 200 are elected from party lists in each of the nine provinces. The President of South Africa is chosen by the National Assembly after each election.
The ANC, which has been in power since 1994, obtained 69.7% of votes cast on the national ballot, theoretically allowing them to change the constitution — though they have pledged not to. About 56% of eligible voters took part in the election, with the ANC receiving support from about 38% of all eligible voters.
The main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, also obtained an increased percentage on the national ballot, most likely from former supporters of the New National Party, possibly losing some support to Patricia de Lille's new Independent Democrats. The New National Party, a descendant of the ruling party of the apartheid era, lost most of their support, dropping from 6.9% in 1999 to 1.7% (it was 20.4% in 1994), many of their supporters being unhappy with their alliance with the ANC. The Independent Democrats surprised many observers by obtaining more votes than the New National Party, becoming the fifth largest party. The Inkatha Freedom Party lost some support, including the majority in their stronghold province of Kwazulu-Natal, while the United Democratic Movement also lost support, barely hanging on as opposition in their stronghold, the Eastern Cape.