* The National Party: The ruling party represented about 50 percent of the country's 5-million whites in the 1989 general election. A special election in Natal province last week raised doubts about whether the NP still represents a majority of whites. The National Party wants to negotiate political protection for whites in a system generally based on universal suffrage. * The African National Congress: The ANC is the major group representing blacks. It includes allies like the South African Communist Party (SACP), the United Democratic Front (UDF), and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). Although it has not been electorally tested, estimates of the ANC's support range between 40 percent and 80 percent of blacks. It wants to negotiate a political settlement, advocating a nonracial democracy based on one person, one vote. * The Conservative Party: The CP is a 1982 offshoot of the National Party, and now occupies its former political ground. The CP won more than 30 percent of the white vote in 1989. After the recent special election in Natal, the CP claims to represent the majority of whites. It rejects political powersharing, and would approve of negotiations only to determine the boundaries of a ``white homeland.'' It has not yet indicated whether it will take part in current negotiations. * Inkatha: The Zulu-based cultural and political movement projects itself as the ANC's main rival. It claims more than 1 million signed-up members, but has failed to demonstrate significant support outside Natal province, the home of some 7 million Zulus. Inkatha wants a negotiated settlement based on universal suffrage in a unitary state, but is prepared to discuss a federal system. It opposes the ANC's policy of promoting sanctions and armed struggle as methods of ending apartheid. * The Pan-Africanist Congress: The PAC is the main ideological rival of the ANC, but its support has never been tested. It claims to be gaining members rapidly as the ANC moves toward negotiations. Some estimates put PAC support as high as 30 percent in some areas. The PAC proposes a more radical redistribution of land and wealth, and says blacks now do not have enough power to succeed at negotiations. But in recent weeks, it has softened its early rejection of negotiations. It has not indicated whether it will be at the negotiating table. * Democratic Party: The home of white liberals, it won support from about 20 percent of the voters in the 1989 general election. Its political ground has been usurped by the National Party, and its support-base appears to have been shattered in last week's special election in Natal, when its share of the vote was reduced from 28 to 8 percent.