Parliamentary Chamber: House of Representatives


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  House of Representatives

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 1,439,112
Voters 261,047*
Blank or invalid ballot papers 2,861
Valid votes 258,186

  * Results apply to contested seats.

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Labour Party (LP) 80 171,930 65.00
Democratic Reform Party (DRP) 47 39,741 15.20
United Democratic Party (UDP) 18 19,261 7.60
Freedom Party (FP) 7 1,949 0.74
Independents 22 24,705 9.40

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
Labour Party (LP) 69 -7
Democratic Reform Party (DRP) 5 +5
United Democratic Party (UDP) 3 +3
Freedom Party (FP) 1 =
Independents 2 +2

  Popularly elected members only. The breakdown of all Representatives seats was as follows: LP 74 (17 uncontested), DRP 5, UDP 3, FP 1, Independents 2.

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 84
Women: 1

Distribution of seats according to age:  
18-29 years 3
30-39 years 17
40-49 years 29
50-59 years 25
60-69 years 11

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Legal profession 2
Farmers 1
Businessmen 27
Politicians 2
Administrative/clerical 8
Teachers 23
Clergy 3
Medical profession 3
Artisan/technician 11
Media/public relations 4
Others 1

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Copyright 1989 Inter-Parliamentary Union