South African general election, 1987

South African general election, 1987

6 May 1987

All 166 elected seats in the House of Assembly

  First party Second party Third party
Leader P. W. Botha Andries Treurnicht Colin Eglin
Party National Party Conservative Party Progressive Federal
Leader since 1978 1982 1986
Leader's seat George Waterberg Sea Point
Last election 131 n/a 26
Seats won 123 22 19
Seat change 8 23 7
Popular vote 1,075,642 574,502 288,579
Percentage 52.3% 26.6% 14.0%
Swing 4.66% 26.6% 11.2%

House of Assembly after the election

State President before election

P. W. Botha
National Party

Elected State President

P. W. Botha
National Party

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

The 1987 South African general election was held on 6 May 1987. The State of Emergency existing in South Africa at that time cast a cloud over the elections. It was once again won by the National Party (NP) under the leadership of P. W. Botha, although for the first time it faced serious opposition from the right of the South African political spectrum.

The right-wing opposition came in the form of the Conservative Party (CP), which opposed even the limited powersharing with Indian and Coloured South Africans that had been implemented by the NP as part of a package of constitutional reforms in 1984. The CP was led by a former chairman of the Broederbond and NP cabinet minister, Andries Treurnicht, infamously known as Minister of Education under the Soweto riots. Following the election, in which the CP extended its 17 splinter MPs to win 22 seats, it replaced the Progressive Federal Party (PFP) as the official opposition in the House of Assembly.[1]

The election year also saw important political developments to the left of the NP. During 1987 Denis Worrall resigned as the South African ambassador in London to return to politics. Together with Wynand Malan (who had resigned from the NP) and Esther Lategan he formed the Independent Movement to fight the general election. Only Malan won a seat and the partnership consequently disintegrated. Denis Worrall and others subsequently went on to form the Independent Party (IP), while Esther Lategan and others formed the National Democratic Movement.

Partially as a result of the split in the votes to the liberal anti-NP parties, the PFP lost seven of its parliamentary seats as well as its role of official opposition. The New Republic Party (NRP), formerly the United Party continued its disintegration and lost four of its five seats.


Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu noted after the election, "We have entered the dark ages of the history of our country."[2]


Party (abbr.) Leader Votes % Elected seats Other seats1 Total seats Swing3 % seats
  National Party P.W. Botha 1,075,642 52.3% 123 10 133 10 74.7%
  Conservative Party Andries Treurnicht 574,502 26.6% 22 1 23 23 12.9%
  Progressive Federal Party (PFP) Colin Eglin 288,579 14.0% 19 1 20 7 11.2%
  Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) Jaap Marais 62,888 3.1% 0 0 0 0.0%
  New Republic Party (NRP) Bill Sutton 40,494 2.0% 1 0 1 7 0.6%
  Others including Independent Movement2 Wynand Malan
Denis Worrall
27,149 1.3% 1 0 1 1 0.6%
Total 2,069,254 100.0% 166 12 178 100.0%

1 Includes nominated seats and proportional seats. 2 The seat was won by the Independence Movement. 3 Since the previous election (1981).



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