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Title:The referendum as an electoral device in National Party politics, 1917-60
Author:Sussman, GaryISNI
Periodical:Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
National Party
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02589340601122885
Abstract:This article argues that parties may view a referendum pledge as a resource to broaden their electoral appeal, especially where controversial ethno-national issues are at stake. The proactive referendum pledge allows a political party to pursue an ethno-national ideal that sets it apart from the incumbent, yet seek the support of wider constituencies. As historical evidence from South Africa suggests, repeated use of the referendum pledge for this purpose makes it difficult for the party to abrogate once in power. Thus in 1961, white South African voters narrowly endorsed the country's transition to a republic. This ballot was the result of repeated referendum pledges by the ruling National Party (NP) from 1917 onwards. These promises were made while in opposition and as part of the NP's efforts to consolidate its precarious hold on power after ascendancy in 1948. Such strategic use of the referendum is distinct from other forms of controlled referendum use identified to date. The existing literature suggests that incumbents employ controlled referenda in response to public pressure or deep internal divisions over controversial issues. The genesis of a referendum may, however, lie in the politics of opposition and incumbency struggles. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]