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South Africa apartheid party votes to dissolve

JOHANNESBURG -- The South African party that introduced apartheid and enforced racial segregation for 50 years has voted itself out of existence after a series of stinging electoral defeats.

The federal council of the New National Party, renamed from the National Party in 1997, voted Saturday for a motion to disband, 88 to 2. Three abstained.

''The forerunner to the NNP, the National Party, brought development to a section of South Africa, but also brought suffering through a system grounded on injustice," former leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk said in a speech.

''No party . . . could hope to successfully atone and move ahead in the same vehicle," said van Schalkwyk, environmental affairs and tourism minister in President Thabo Mbeki's Cabinet.

He addressed NNP members who joined the African National Congress when the two parties merged last year.

But former president F. W. de Klerk said the NNP's demise undermined effective opposition to the ANC. ''The dissolution of the National Party creates a void in the party political scene in South Africa," he told the BBC.

''We need a fairly young person without any political baggage to stand up and be counted and say, 'We are going to fill this void,' " said de Klerk, who led talks to dismantle white rule and then turned his back on the NNP after last year's merger.

De Klerk has said whites and other minority groups felt disempowered under the ANC's leadership; many went abroad in search of better prospects.

The ANC argues that white South Africans must do more to address the injustices of the past, and says it remains committed to establishing a nonracial and multicultural society.

The NNP was all that remained of the once-mighty National Party, known as the Nats, which came to power in 1948 and hardened discriminatory laws under a system of racial segregation known as apartheid.

The system was dismantled in the 1994 elections.

The NNP was virtually wiped out in elections in April 2004, receiving less than 2 percent of the vote, while the ANC won a two-thirds' majority.

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