History of elections in South Africa

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The South African general elections: 1970

On 30 September1969, South Africa's Prime Minister, BJ Vorster, announced to the annual Congress of his party, the National Party (NP), in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province), that the general election was to be held on 22 April 1970 in order to stabilise the South African Government.  The closing session of Parliament would last from 30 January to 27 February 1970 and the elections would take place in April. The session of the Assembly was the last to be attended by three White representatives of South Africa's Coloured population; their term expired under the .  Non-whites were only allowed to elect representatives to the “Coloured Persons” Representative Council" which consisted of 40 elected and 20 appointed members.

United Party (UP), the main opposition party, led by Sir de Villiers de Graaf, put up 149, and there were 80 candidates representing the Reconstituted National Party, an extreme right-wing movement led by JBM Hertzog. In addition, Helen Suzman's Progressive Party (PP) put up 19 candidates, and the Independents put up 14 candidates.

The NP’s election campaign was around the theme of “separate development “in line with the principle of BJ Vorster who recommended the completion of separate development programmes for the White, Bantu and Coloured and Indian population. The NP’s election manifesto stated that the Party would not deviate from its practice of administering White and non-White sport separately. The UP’s election manifesto accepted the policy of separate development that would be applied with greater consideration of humanitarian principles than it had been under the NP.

The UP also proposed the adoption of a federal form of government that would allow Coloureds to be represented in Parliament by two Senators and six Deputies. The Reconstituted National Party, founded in September 1969 by JBM Hertzog, following his exclusion from the NP, advocated a Calvinist and nationalistic society in which Afrikaans would be the only official language. The PP opposed the separate development policy arguing that it puts individual liberties as well as the economic development of the country at risk.  In general, the 1970 election campaign was marked by several clashes between Whites, in particular, supporters of the NP succeeded in disrupting nearly all the rallies held by JBM Hertzog's party.

The 1970 general election was held on 22 April 1970, and only four political parties contested the elections. The number of registered voters was 2 028 487, number of voters was 1 503 284, void or blank ballot papers was 10 524, and 1 497 760 was the number of valid votes. The NP obtained 820 968 votes, UP obtained 561 647, Reconstituted National Party obtained 53 763 votes and Progressive Party obtained 51 760 votes. The election resulted in the return to power of the NP for the sixth time since 1948, but with a reduced majority as compared to 1966 general elections. 

The 1970 South African general election was won by the National Party (NP) of BJ Vorster. The NP won 117 seats, the United Party (UP) of Sir de Villiers Graaf won 47 seats, and the Progressive Party (PP) of Jan Steytler won one seat in the 165-seat House of Assembly.    

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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.
•  Hofmeyr, Jan. H. (1929). South Africa after the elections. Foreign Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 130-134.  
•  Magubane, B. (2004). Introduction: the political context, in the road to democracy in South Africa, Vol 1, 1960 ”“ 1970. South African Democracy Education Trust.
•  Stadler, A. W. (1975). The 1974 General Election in South Africa.  African Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 295, pp. 209-218.
•  Rydon, J. (1958).The South African General Elections. The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 30, No. 2, pp. 30-38.   

Last updated : 15-Apr-2014

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