History of elections in South Africa

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The South African general elections: 1958

The controversy over apartheid policy set the stage for the general election of 16 April 1958. The National Party (NP) agreed on maintaining racial segregation (which had to an important degree existed since before the establishment of the Union in 1910). The opposition United Party (UP), led by Sir De Villiers Graaf, favoured liberalism, Commonwealth and Coloured people’s rights , and the Liberal Party advocated the abolition of Apartheid.

The general election was held on 16 April 1958. The National Party (NP), Labour Party (LP) and United Party (UP), and Independents contested the election. The number of registered voters was 1 563 426, the total number of votes (voter turnout) was 1 162 576, the number of invalid or blank votes was 7 573, and the total number of valid votes was 1 156 003. The UP obtained 503 648 number of votes, the NP obtained 642 006 votes and the LP obtained 2 934 votes.

The NP increased its number of seats in Parliament followed by the opposition UP. The LP lost the three seats that it contested. The candidates of the Liberal Partyappealed to only a small minority and were greatly defeated.

The NP was led by J G Strijdom who was elected the leader of the Party and became the Prime Minister after the resignation of D F Malan. On 24 August 1958, S J Strijdom died due to poor health. On 2 September 1958, Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was elected the NP’s new leader, and the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa.

In the 1958 general elections, the National Party (NP) led by Dr Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd won the most seats,103; while the United Party (UP) led by Sir de Villiers Graaf won 53 seats in the 156-seat House of Assembly.

H F Verwoerd was elected Prime Minister of the country. The Progressive Party (PP) was formed in 1959 by from members who broke away from the United Party (UP) because they opposed the policy of apartheid in favour of the Rule of Law. Helen Suzman was the only PP’s Member of Parliament (MP) until 1974.

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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.  
•  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