Parliamentary Chamber: House of Assembly


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  House of Assembly

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  6 September 1989

Purpose of elections:

  Elections took place for all the seats in the tricameral Parliament in the first such simultaneous polling held under the 1983 Constitution. The House of Assembly had been dissolved in May 1989.

Background and outcome of elections:

  The 1989 polling date, chose by virtue of the expiry on 5 September of Parliament’s normal term of five years, was announced on 3 May 1989 by the then State President, Mr. P. W. Botha. Elections had previously been held in May 1987 for the House of Assembly and in August 1984 for the two other Houses. The polling thus marked the first time that White, Coloured (mixed-race) and Asian voters cast ballots on the same day for the three distinct Houses of Parliament.

For the House of Assembly seats, the ruling National Party (NP) under Acting State President F. W. De Klerk (who had succeeded Mr. Botha) fought the election on a platform of orderly reform and negotiation with Black leaders, while insisting that group rights be guaranteed in a future dispensation. It criticized the Conservative Party (CP) for advocating policies that had proved unworkable and unrealistic, and the Democratic Party (DP) for being "soft" on security, particularly with reference to left-wing groupings. The CP, led by Dr. A. Treurnicht, advocated self-determination for and separation of groups, and proposed partition as the means to achieve this. The DP, under a triumvirate of leaders, contended that security and prosperity could only be attained by according all citizens equal rights, which in turn would entail the scrapping of all discriminatory measures.

In the two other Houses differences among election platforms were not as clear-cut. All parties fought the election on the basis of participation in the system with a view to the scrapping of discriminatory measures. The Mass Democratic Movement, an organization made up of activist anti-apartheid groups, conducted a "defiance campaign" aimed at disrupting the election, discouraging voting and promoting a stayaway on voting day.

Economic issues were for their part widely debated, no doubt in view of current tight financial circumstances. Another new feature of this election campaign which aroused much interest was the introduction of structured policy debates on television between candidates of opposing parties. Altogether 763 candidates were in the running for the Houses’ 286 directly elected seats.

The result of the House of Assembly elections was a setback for the NP, which, while remaining the largest single party, lost seats to both right- and left-wing parties and had its number of popularly-elected seats cut from 120 to 94. Despite the number of seats gained by the CP (the official opposition), there was consensus among commentators that in terms of voter support there had been a greater swing to the left than to the right. President De Klerk contended that the outcome constituted a mandate for reform.

In the House of Representatives, the Labour Party under the Rev. H. J. Hendrickse captured 69 of the 80 seats, while the official opposition – the Democratic Reform Party – won only five seats. In the House of Delegates a confused situation emerged after no party had gained an absolute majority. Subsequently, however, the Solidarity Party, through a process of negotiation with members of smaller parties, managed to obtain a working majority of one seat, taking into account nominated and indirectly-elected members.

On 20 September, Mr. De Klerk took office for a five-year term as President. The new 17-member Cabinet was also sworn in the same day.

Round no 1 (6 September 1989): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 3,120,104
Voters 2,167,929*
Blank or invalid ballot papers 10,336
Valid votes 2,157,593

  * Results apply to contested seats.

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
National Party (NP) 164 1,039,704 47.00
Conservative Party (CP) 131 680,131 31.30
Democratic Party (DP) 105 431,444 19.90
Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) 23 5,416 0.25
Independents 5 898 0.04

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
National Party (NP) 94 -31
Conservative Party (CP) 39 +17
Democratic Party (DP) 33 +14
Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) 0 =
Independents 0 =

  Popularly elected members only. The breakdown of all 178 Assembly seats was as follows: NP 103, CP 41 and DP 34 (2 uncontested).

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 173
Women: 5

Distribution of seats according to age:  
30-39 years 18
40-49 years 73
50-59 years 58
60-69 years 28
70 and over 1

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Legal profession 42
Farmers 34
Businessmen 21
Politicians 16
Company directors 9
Lecturers 9
Administrative/clerical 9
Engineers 7
Teachers 6
Clergy 6
Medical profession 5
Artisan/technician 5
Military 4
Media/public relations 3
Others 2

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Copyright 1989 Inter-Parliamentary Union