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New National Party (South Africa)

New National Party
Leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk
Founded 1997
Dissolved 2005
Preceded by National Party
Merged into African National Congress
Ideology Conservatism,
Afrikaner nationalism
Politics of South Africa
Political parties
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
South Africa
Foreign relations

The New National Party (NNP) was a South African conservative political party formed in 1997 when the National Party pulled out of the Government of National Unity with the African National Congress and decided to change its name in the process. The name change was an attempt to distance itself from its apartheid past, and reinvent itself as a moderate, non-racist federal party. The attempt was largely unsuccessful, and in 2005 the New National Party voted to disband itself.

The party's first leader was former president of South Africa F. W. de Klerk, the winner with Nelson Mandela of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in dismantling apartheid. De Klerk was succeeded by Marthinus van Schalkwyk until the eventual disbanding and merger of the party with the African National Congress.

The New National Party had some difficulty carving out a political base in post-apartheid South Africa. On the one hand, it still had the legacy of its role under apartheid. On the other hand, it seemed uncertain about its relationship with the government led by the African National Congress and seemed unable to decide whether it was in a political alliance with the ANC or in opposition. These two issues led to defections to the Democratic Party, which had a historical legacy of being anti-apartheid and was clearly an opposition party to the ANC.

The South African general election of 1999 saw the party losing much of its support as well as its status as the official opposition nationally and in most provinces. However, it remained influential in the Western Cape, despite being pushed into second place there by the African National Congress. One big aim of the party remained; to regain its position as the dominant force in the Western Cape. The NNP was also part of a short-lived alliance with the Democratic Party, for which purpose the Democratic Party changed its name to Democratic Alliance. After leaving the alliance, the NNP allied itself with the ruling ANC.

Decline and merger with the ANC

During the South African general election of 2004, the NNP was almost eliminated from parliament. Much of its support deserted the party, due to unhappiness with its alliance with the ANC, and its share of the national vote dropped from 6.9% in 1999 to 1.9%, having been 20.4% under the National Party name in 1994. The party was pushed into a distant third place behind the Democratic Alliance in its former stronghold in the Western Cape.

With the former governing party now only the sixth largest in the country, questions were asked about its long term future, and the leadership of van Schalkwyk. Despite his party's poor performance in the polls, van Schalkwyk was given the cabinet post of Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, as a reward for aligning the NNP with the ANC.

At its assembly on 9 April 2005, the NNP's Federal Council voted by 88 to 2 to disband. It also settled its outstanding debt of R5.2 million to the Absa Group Limited, in preparation for dissolution.

With effect from 5 August 2005, all NNP members of parliament became members of the ANC, in accordance with the tradition of crossing the floor in South Africa, as nothing then prevented politicians, elected on one party ticket, from defecting to other parties or becoming independents. In 2009 new legislation made this unlawful.


External links

  • News reports of disbanding: Independent Online, BBC News
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