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Democratic Alliance (South Africa)
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is a liberal South African political party, and the official opposition to the ruling African National Congress. It was formed when the Democratic Party entered into a short-lived alliance with the New National Party in 2000.
History and origins
Although the Democratic Alliance in its present form is fairly new, its roots can be traced back to the Progressive Party, founded in 1959 when liberal members seceded from the United Party. They could not agree with the inability of the UP to present an alternative to the National Party's apartheid policy. The PP emphasised constitutional reform, a Bill of Rights, an independent judiciary and the evolution towards federalism. This reforms were combined with a free market economy. In 1961 only Helen Suzman was elected in parliament. For 13 years she was the only opponent of racial discrimination and other apartheid regime's abuses in the whites-only parliament, fighting against detention without trial, pass laws, influx control etc. From 1971 Colin Eglin was the party leader, without being a member of parliament himself. In 1974 the party won 7 seats.
In 1975 the party merged with the Reform Party, a breakaway party of the United Party, forming the Progressive Reform Party. Two years later dissident UP members formed the Committee for a United Opposition, that joined the PRP to form the Progressive Federal Party. The PFP drew support mainly from liberal English-speaking white South Africans, as owing to South Africa's apartheid laws, its membership was limited to the country's whites. The PFP was derided by right-wing whites, who claimed its initials stood for 'Packing for Perth', on account of the many white liberal supporters of the 'Progs' who were emigrating to Australia.
Frederick van Zyl Slabbert , PFP leader since 1979, resigned from parliament in 1986 because it had, in his view, become irrelevant. Later he formed the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA). He was succeeded by Colin Eglin. The PFP was ousted as the official opposition by the far-right Conservative Party in the whites-only parliamentary elections held on 6 May 1987. This electoral blow led many of the PFP's leaders to question the value of participating in the whites-only parliament, and some of its MPs left to join the National Democratic Movement. In 1987, shortly before the elections, the Independent Party of Denis Worral was also formed, further splitting the liberal opposition.
After the 1988 elections, the new PFP leader Zach de Beer concluded negotiations with the IP and the NDM to merge into the Democratic Party in 1989, and proceeded to win 36 seats in the elections that year. The DP played a vital role in the negotiation of an interim constitution which includes most of the original progressive principles and ideals. In the 1994 general election, the first after apartheid was abolished, the party won only 1,7% of the vote and 10 seats in parliament. De Beer was succeeded by Tony Leon, who emphasised the protection of human rights, federalism and free enterprise. The party improved its performance during the 1999 general election to receive 9,6% of the vote and 44 seats, replacing the New National Party as official opposition.
The DP merged with the NNP in 2000 to form the Democratic Alliance (DA). The much smaller Federal Alliance later also merged with the DA. The DA then formed the government of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Following the elections of 2000 the DA polled 52.3% of the vote in Cape Town, sufficient to form the municipal government of the city. The DA also formed the government of several other towns in the Western Cape.
The brittle alliance lasted only until 2001, when the NNP left to form a new alliance with the African National Congress. With the departure of some NNP Members of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature, and of some NNP councillors, the DA lost its hold on most of the city councils of the Western Cape.
With the 2004 general election, both the DA and ANC increased their vote share, at the expense of other opposition parties. The DA won 12.4% of the votes and 50 seats, and remains the second largest political party in South Africa.
- Contributions to liberal theory
- Liberalism worldwide
- List of liberal parties
- Liberal democracy
- Liberalism in South Africa
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