Courtesy Reuters

The Election Campaign in South Africa

JUST five years ago, also on the eve of a general election, I reviewed the political situation in the Union of South Africa and attempted to forecast the result.[i] On that occasion I was more fortunate than prophets sometimes are, for I foretold the defeat of General Smuts and estimated accurately the ultimate strength of the parties. But I would disclaim the rôle of prophet today because not only are there so many warring factors at work, but also because the elections will have taken place (June 12) shortly before these lines appear in print.

It may be remembered by some readers that the two parties, Nationalists and Labor, which had been in opposition since the grant of independent government, allied themselves at the last elections in order to avoid three-cornered contests which would split the vote and result in a victory for the South African Party of General Smuts. It was entirely an election compact, and was successful in that many of Smuts's candidates lost their seats. But the Nationalists had but a bare working majority; and in order to allow them to consolidate their position the agreement was continued in the House of Assembly. It was plain, however, that two such groups, holding diametrically opposite views on contentious matters like wages, labor hours, native representation and trades unionism, must sooner or later find progress in double harness somewhat complicated. Nevertheless the decision was made. Labor was rendered more amenable by the award of three seats in the Cabinet. It was a generous award; but it has become a gift not unlike the shirt of Nessus, for it has shattered the Labor Party.

The Labor Party record in this last Parliament has been a sorry one in the extreme. Although professedly the apostles of progress, they have fettered the liberty of the press which has been the boast of Anglo-Saxon countries since our forefathers won that privilege. At election times all leading and special articles dealing with politics, as well

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