History of elections in South Africa

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The South African general elections: 1920

Louis Botha died in 1919 and Jan Smuts took over the leadership of the South African Party (SAP). He retained control of the government following the victory in the 1920 general election with the support of Unionists (White mine workers) and Independents.

The 1920 election was held on 20 March 1920. The parties involved contested 134 seats in the House of Assembly. The general election was contested by the South African Party (SAP), the National Party (NP), the Labour Party (LP) and Independents. The number of registered voters was 499 531, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 277 742, the number of invalid or blank votes was not available, and the total number of valid votes was 275 219. The SAP obtained 137 389 votes, the NP obtained 75 105 039 votes, Labour Party (LP) obtained 29 406 votes, and Independents obtained 3 385 votes. 

The SAP won 41 seats, the National Party (NP) won 44, the Unionist Party won 25, the Labour Party won 21 seats, and the Independents won three seats in the 134-seat House of Assembly. Hertzog’s NP made important inroads, gaining three more seats than the South African Party. Smuts’ inconsiderate suppression of White labour protest in early 1920 cost him more support. Hertzog’s NP merged with the Labour Party in 1924.

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References:
• Johnson, S. (1988). South Africa: No turning back. Macmillan.
• Tirykian, E.A. (1960). Apartheid and politics in South Africa. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 22, No 4, pp.682-697.
• Stultz, N. M. (1974). Afrikaner politics in South Africa, 1934-1948. University of California press. Berkely/ Los Angeles/ London.
• Roger B. Beck. (2000). The history of South Africa. Greenwood press, Cape Town, South Africa. 
• Butler, J and Stultz, N M.  (1963). The South African general election of 1961, in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 86-110.    
•  Heard, A. K. (1974). General elections in South Africa. London. New York. Toronto: Oxford University.  

Last updated : 24-Mar-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 24-Feb-2014