Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

De Klerk Calls Test Vote on Apartheid, Threatens to Resign Crucial By-Election Strengthens Conservative Party's Bid to Represent White Majority in S. African Reforms

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

De Klerk Calls Test Vote on Apartheid, Threatens to Resign Crucial By-Election Strengthens Conservative Party's Bid to Represent White Majority in S. African Reforms

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Frederik de Klerk told Parliament yesterday that he would resign if whites voted against him in a whites-only referendum on his political reforms to be held as soon as possible.

"If I lose the referendum I will resign, and you can have an election," he told the minority Parliament in Cape Town.

Mr. de Klerk said he would give whites an opportunity in the near future to decide whom they wanted to negotiate their constitutional future. If he lost the referendum - the date and wording of the question will be announced next week - he and the National Party government would resign, paving the way for a whites-only general election, he said.

His surprise move followed an election victory by the right-wing Conservative Party in the western Transvaal voting district of Potchefstroom, a National Party seat for four decades.

The Conservatives exceeded their most optimistic expectations by turning a National Party majority of 1,583 into a 2,140 Conservative majority on a record 75 percent voter turnout. The result confirmed a national trend in recent by-elections which indicates that about 56 percent of rural Afrikaners support the Conservatives and 44 percent the National Party.

But the outcome of the Potchefstroom ballot also presents the ANC with a dilemma: If they push De Klerk too hard, they could end up negotiating a new constitution with hard-line Conservative Party leader Andries Treurnicht.

Dr. Treurnicht said the poll result confirmed that De Klerk no longer represented a majority of whites and he demanded a whites-only election, something De Klerk has so far rejected.

Addressing himself to De Klerk he said: "You don't represent the white nation at CODESA {the Convention for a Democratic South Africa}. You can't speak on our behalf."

De Klerk said the Conservative Party position was undermining the process of reform. "This is something that must be settled," said De Klerk. "It's in the interests of the negotiating process that we must settle it."

The Conservatives currently hold 42 seats in the 178-seat white assembly; the National Party has 104 seats; and the liberal Democratic Party has 32.

After the Potchefstroom poll, political analysts are divided on whether the National Party would retain its parliamentary majority. But most analysts believe that De Klerk will be able to win a referendum by capitalizing on the support of liberal whites and his personal popularity.

De Klerk said that if the white voters decided against the continuation of the interracial negotiating forum, or CODESA, he would quit. But he added that black leaders should not read this as an attempt to introduce a white veto on constitutional change.

"We need time to sort this problem out as the ANC needed time to sort its problems out," he said.

The Conservative Party welcomed De Klerk's shock announcement and accepted the challenge. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.