The election, which is likely to take place any time between July and September, will probably bring an end to the political careers of a large number of new MPs in all three Houses. Many will opt for retirement and others, particularly in the white House, could lose their seats. It will also be the end of the PW Botha era, a period which saw a massive consolidation of power in the presidency and the introduction of the tricameral constitutional system.
The announcement will give renewed impetus to the scheduled launch this weekend of the new Democratic Party, which should unite the parliamentary forces to the left of the government in preparation for what will be a crucial election for them. The only party which seems unlikely at this stage to face major problems at the hustings is the Labour Party which appears set to consolidate its hold over the House of Representatives and wipe out its ineffective opposition. Although the new National Party leader, FW de Klerk, expresses confidence that it has the right-wing on the run, the NP could face trouble.
The Conservative Party is confident it will pick up a number of seats and, publicly at least, some of its leaders are talking about winning control of the white House. However, it is doubtful that it has the resources, let alone the support, to mount such a challenge. What is clear is the government will face a determined challenge from the right-wing and there may well be some significant casualties such as Deputy Minister of Law and Order Leon Wessels, the MP for Krugersdorp, and the outspoken Albert Nothnagel, MP for Langlaagte. The NP will also face a concerted challenge from the new Democratic Party, which believes a large number of white voters are tired of the governments race policies.
In the May 1987 election the NP captured a number of PFP seats which the DP is confident it will regain. The NP will have to fight a battle on two fronts: convincing rightwing constituencies it is hawkish and strictly controlling reform, yet at the same time persuading those to the left of the government that it is serious about significant reform. The situation regarding the House of Delegates remains somewhat confused. Solidarity, the ruling party, faces a challenge from other groupings which have better campaign records. This could change if there is a reversal in the boycott strategy by those which have not participated in elections. However, this does not seem likely.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.