South African general election, 1981

South African general election, 1981

29 April 1981

All 165 elected seats in the House of Assembly

  First party Second party
Leader P. W. Botha Frederik van Zyl Slabbert
Party National Party Progressive Federal
Last election 134 17
Seats won 131 26
Seat change 3 9

Prime Minister before election

P. W. Botha
National Party

Elected Prime Minister

P. W. Botha
National Party

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa

During the 1981 South African general election, held on 29 April of that year, the National Party, under the leadership of P. W. Botha since 1978, lost some support, but achieved another landslide victory, winning 131 of 165 directly elected seats in the House of Assembly.[1]

Its membership now included 12 additional members, of whom four were appointed by the State President and eight were elected by the directly elected members.[2]

The elected additional members were chosen by means of proportional representation, by means of the single transferable vote.[1]

Meanwhile, the Progressive Federal Party – led since 1979 by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, an Afrikaner – increased its representation to 26 seats, thereby consolidating its position as the official opposition.

The Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP), which represented right-wing Afrikaner conservatives, received 14.1% of the popular vote but did not gain any seats.[1]


Party Leader Votes % Elected seats Other seats Total seats
National Party P.W. Botha 777,558 56.96% 131 11 142
Progressive Federal Party Frederik van Zyl Slabbert 265,297 19.44% 26 1 27
Herstigte Nasionale Party Jaap Marais 192,304 14.09% 0 0 0
New Republic Party Vause Raw 106,764 7.82% 8 0 8
  Others 23,044 1.68% 0 0 0
Total 100.00% 165 12 177

Constitutional changes

The 1981 election was the first since the abolition of the Senate that year, the House of Assembly had become the sole chamber of Parliament.[3] It was also the last to be held under the then 1961 Constitution, under which South Africa had become a republic, while retaining a Westminster-style parliamentary system.


  1. 1 2 3 SOUTH AFRICA Date of Elections: 29 April 1981, International Parliamentary Union
  2. The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, Volume 13, Institute of Foreign and Comparative Law, University of South Africa, 1981, page 354
  3. Parliaments of South Africa, J.J.L Cloete, J.L. van Schaik, 1985, page 62

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