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1961 South African general election

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1961 South African general election

← 1958 18 October 1961 (1961-10-18) 1966 →

All 156 general roll seats in the House of Assembly
Turnout44.55% (Decrease 29.81pp)
  First party Second party
Zuid Afrikaanse premier dr. H. Verwoerd, Bestanddeelnr 911-1297 (cropped).jpg
Sir De Villiers Graaff (cropped).jpg
Leader Hendrik Verwoerd De Villiers Graaff
Party National United
Last election 103 seats, 55.54% 53 seats, 42.57%
Seats won 105 49
Seat change Increase 2 Decrease 4
Popular vote 370,395 261,361
Percentage 46.44% 35.28%

  Third party Fourth party
Parlementslede van die Progressiewe Party 1960 (cropped).jpg
Leader Jan Steytler Henry Allan Fagan
Party Progressive National Union
Last election
Seats won 1 1
Seat change New New
Popular vote 69,045 50,279
Percentage 8.66% 6.30%
Swing New New

Prime Minister before election

Hendrik Verwoerd

Elected Prime Minister

Hendrik Verwoerd

General elections were held in South Africa on 18 October 1961.[1] They were the first general elections after South Africa became a republic following the 1960 South African referendum. The National Party under Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd won a majority in the House of Assembly.

The National Union Party - led by J.D. du P. Basson and ex-Chief Justice Fagan in alliance with the United Party - had been formed as a "bridge" to the United Party for moderate nationalists who were unhappy with Verwoerd's leadership, but the party failed and later merged with the United Party.

This election also saw the first general election appearance of the liberal Progressive Party, which had broken away from the United Party in 1959. The new party retained one MP, in the form of Helen Suzman. She was to remain its sole parliamentary representative until 1974.

Changes in franchise

End of black representation

During the previous Parliament the seats of the three MPs and four Senators representing black South Africans had been abolished. The 1961 election produced the first Parliament with no representation at all for black South Africans.[2]

Coloured Representative Members

The second election for the four coloured representative members took place on 4 October 1961, before the (white voters only) general election on 18 October 1961. Under the Separate Representation of Voters Act 1951, the members were to serve until the dissolution of the new Parliament.

The four seats were won by Independents, with United Party support. The recently formed Progressive Party did not contest the four vacancies.[3]

Reduction in voting age

This was the first election after the passage of the Electoral Law Amendment Act, No. 30 of 1958, which reduced the voting age for white voters from 21 to 18.[4]

Delimitation of electoral divisions

The South Africa Act 1909 had provided for a delimitation commission to define the boundaries for each electoral division, for general roll voters in the four provinces. The representation by province, under the eleventh delimitation report of 1958, is set out in the table below. The figures in brackets are the number of electoral divisions in the previous (1953) delimitation. If there is no figure in brackets then the number was unchanged.[5]

This was only the second general election, in South African history, where the boundaries were unchanged from the previous election.

Provinces Cape Natal Orange Free State Transvaal Total
Divisions 52 (54) 16 (15) 14 (13) 68 150

Composition at the dissolution

At the end of the 12th Parliament elected since the Union of 1910, when it was dissolved in 1961, the House of Assembly consisted of two groups of members. White voters were represented by 156 general roll members and coloured voters in Cape Province by four white MPs known at the time as Coloured Representative Members (CRM).

The general election only affected the representatives of white voters. The other members were elected on a different date (see above).

The representation by party and province, at the dissolution was:-[6]

Province National United Progressive National Union CRM Total
Cape (general) 33 14 5 - - 52
Cape (CRM) - - - - 4 4
Natal 2 11 3 - - 16
Orange Free State 14 - - - - 14
South-West Africa 5 - - 1 - 6
Transvaal 48 17 3 - - 68
Total 102 42 11 1 4 160


South African House of Assembly 1961.svg
National Party370,39546.44105+2
United Party281,36135.2849–4
Progressive Party69,0458.661New
National Union50,2796.301New
Conservative Workers' Party8,5541.070New
United National South West Party6,8560.8600
Independent Republican Party2,9030.360New
Labour Party2,4610.3100
Coloured Representative Members40
Valid votes797,56199.44
Invalid/blank votes4,5180.56
Total votes802,079100.00
Registered voters/turnout1,811,16044.29
Source: Potgieter[7]

By province

Province National United Progressive National Union Independents Total
Cape (general) 34 18 0 0 0 52
Cape (CRM) 0 0 0 0 4 4
Natal 2 14 0 0 0 16
Orange Free State 14 0 0 0 0 14
South-West Africa 6 0 0 0 0 6
Transvaal 49 17 1 1 0 68
Total 105 49 1 1 4 160


  1. ^ Stultz, Newell M.; Butler, Jeffrey (March 1963). "The South African General Election of 1961". Political Science Quarterly. Academy of Political Science. 78 (1): 86–110. doi:10.2307/2146669. JSTOR 2146669.
  2. ^ In No Uncertain Terms, page 44.
  3. ^ Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1961–1962, page 18449
  4. ^ Horrell, Muriel. A Survey of Race Relations in South Africa, 1957–1958 (PDF). South African Institute of Race Relations. p. 10. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  5. ^ South Africa 1982, page 129 (table setting out delimitations of seats by province, the relevant one being that of 1958)
  6. ^ Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 1960–1961, page 18449
  7. ^ Dirk J. Potgieter (1971) Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Volume 4, p273
  • In No Uncertain Terms, by Helen Suzman (Mandarin Paperback 1994)
  • Keesing's Contemporary Archives
  • South Africa 1982 Official Yearbook of the Republic of South Africa, published by Chris van Rensburg Publications
This page was last edited on 12 February 2021, at 20:29
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