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United Party, South Africa


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Depression

Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870—1950) prime minister of South Africa, army officer, and writer on evolution

James Barry Munnik Hertzog (1866—1942) prime minister of South Africa

 

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Founded as a response to the Great Depression in 1934 as the United South African National Party, it was a fusion between Smuts's South African Party, and most of Hertzog's National Party (NP). It split in 1939 when Hertzog left in opposition to South Africa's entry into World War II. Nevertheless, its surprise defeat in the 1948 elections was less due to its internal weaknesses than to the country's electoral geography. Despite its considerable majority in terms of votes cast, it failed to win a majority of seats because its support was concentrated in urban areas. The death of its deputy leader, Jan Hofmeyr (b. 1894, d. 1948), and its leader, Smuts, dealt the party a heavy blow from which it never really recovered. Despite polling a majority of votes over the NP until 1961, it lost its direction. It became as racist as the NP in a misguided attempt to woo NP voters, which led to the breakaway of its liberal‐minded members to form the Progressive Party in 1959. Further defections occurred until the party was dissolved in 1977.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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