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Progressive Party, South Africa


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Established in 1959, when eleven out of fifty‐three Members of Parliament for the United Party (UP) broke away in disgust at the UP's objections to Verwoerd's plans to grant more land to Black reserves. It adopted a liberal programme, demanding a Bill of Rights, a qualified (but not universal) franchise, and the abolition of racial discrimination. However, from the 1961 elections until 1974 it was represented in parliament by just one MP, the outspoken Helen Suzman (1917–2009), while it was maintained financially by the head of the Anglo‐American Corporation, Harry Oppenheimer. In 1974 it won six seats, and was strengthened by the addition of further breakaway groups from the UP, so that in 1977 it changed its name to the Progressive Federal Party. In 1977, it also became the largest party of opposition, and in 1978 it finally came to demand a universal franchise. In 1987, its position as official opposition was lost to the Conservative Party, and in 1989 it dissolved and its members joined the new Democratic Party, which developed into the Democratic Alliance.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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