Although the ruling National Party has been accused of a serious "lurch to the right," Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha seems set on maintaining at least some of his reformist credibility as far as the party's apartheid racial policy is concerned.
For example, speaking at a recent election meeting, Mr. Botha emphasized once again that if there is going to be any future for South Africa, the government must win not only the confidence and support of the majority of whites in the country, but also the confidence and support of the majority of blacks as well.
He did not speel out the political consequences of this (and they are considerable), but it is nonetheless a courageous and unconventional stance for a National Party leader to adopt in the heat of a general election campaign.
The traditional approach of former National Party leaders has been to indicate that if the blacks do not like what the white government is doing, then they must simply "lump it."
As further evidence of rightist activity, one of the most striking features of the election contest is an attempt by extreme right-wing parties, so far not even represented in Parliament, to win seats from the National Party.
Nearly 400 candidates -- a record number --seats in the all-white South African Parliament. The right-wingers have put up more than 100 candidates, most of them under the banner of the Reconstituted National Party.
That party believes that the National Party government has "gone soft on the blacks" and strayed from its original racial principles of full-scale apartheid -- meaning enforced political, economic, social, and racial segregation.
Voting day is April 29.In addition to the elected members of Parliament, 12 members are nominated by the various political parties according to a system of proportional representation.
In the last Parliament, the National Party had an overwhelming majority, controlling 138 of the 165 seats for elected members.
The main opposition party, the Progressive Federal Party, controlled 18 seats , and a third party, the New Republic Party, had eight seats.
While many National Party supporters appear to be uncertain and confused by the frequently vicious attacks from the far right, the National Party is expected to return to Parliament once again with a large majority, marking its 33rd straight year in power.
But it seems certain to shed some votes, and perhaps also a few seats, to both the left and the right.
As far as the right is concerned, this is mainly because of the reformist stance adopted on some issues by Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha.
In certain country areas in the powerful Transvaal Province, the home of hard-line apartheid, he is widely regarded even among longtime Nationalists as deviating seriously from the party's basic principles, and his nickname is J. R. Ewing, after the dubious character in the "Dallas" television show in the United States.
The opposition Progressive Federal Party (PFP) says that although Mr. Botha might have some idealistic notions, he is the slave of his own party, especially his party's numerous right-wingers, which will make it impossible to act effectively.
The PFP has shown a lively growth in support which exceeds its scant representation in Parliament. It is vigorously reformist, calling for a national convention of representatives of all races to decide on a new constitutional disp ensation for the country.