The United Party wins the General Election

Wednesday, 18 May 1938

The United Party wins the South African general election, who receive 111 parliamentary seats. Second most votes are won by the Herenigde Nasionale Party (HNP, or Reunited National Party), with 27 seats. The United Party's General J.B.M. Hertzog continues as Premier, and General J.C. Smuts as Vice-Premier. The leader of the HNP is Dr D.F. Malan. The other seats go to the Dominion Party (8), the Labour Party (3) and the Socialist Party (1).

The United Party came into being when the South African Party (SAP) and the National Party (NP) formed a coalition agreement and united in 1934 to form the Pact government with General Hertzog of the NP as Premier and General Smuts of the SAP as Vice-Premier. NP members who were unhappy about the merger, led by Malan, left the party to form the Reunited National Party (HNP).

In 1939 a dispute, about whether or not South Africa should remain neutral in the Second World War, broke out among members of the government. The result was that Hertzog, who opposed South African participation in the war, was forced to resign. He was succeeded by Smuts as Premier, and Hertzog joined the HNP.

In 1948 the HNP won the general election and introduced the policy of apartheid to South Africa. In 1951 the HNP merged with the Afrikaner Party, and the party was then renamed simply the National Party (NP). After the 1994 elections, the NP was once again renamed the New National Party (NNP).

This HNP should not be confused with the modern day HNP, which stands for the Herstigte Nasionale Party van Suid-Afrika or Refounded National Party of South Africa. The current HNP was founded in 1969, when conservatives within the National Party broke away with Dr Albert Hertzog.

For more about Pact government and the constitutional development of South Africa, click on the highlighted words. Also see the other Grade 12 Classroom lessons.


Cameron, T. & Spies, S.B. (eds)(1986). An illustrated history of South Africa, Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball. Joyce, P. (2000). Suid-Afrika in die 20ste eeu, Kaapstad: Struik. KrÁƒÂƒÂ¼ger, D.W. (1960). South African parties and policies, 1910-1960: A select source book, Cape Town: Cape Times.

Last updated : 14-Jul-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011