"We'll walk over 'em this time, my dear. It'll be the biggest majority ever," said a taxi driver who will vote Wednesday, as he has in every election since he was 18, for South Africa's ruling National Party.
Informed observers and opinion polls tend to agree with the white taxi driver. They say the party will win the largest number of seats in the 165-member, all-white Parliament because more English-speaking whites will vote National then ever before. The party is backed mainly by Afrikaners, who comprise three-fifths of the country's 4.5 million whites. There are 22 million nonwhites.
As if to echo the thoughts of English speakers, the National Party's campaign posters say, "This Time, I vote National."
South Africa's English-speaking whites are the object of "assiduous, conscientious wooing" said one observer, on the Part of Prime Minister John Vorster's National Party. Vorster wants this election to show that all whites stand united against pressures from the "outside world" for an end to South African policies of racial discrimination.
The National Party's effort has been made easier by weakness and division among the "liberal" opposition parties - traditionally dominated by English speakers.
Vorster took this in account when he decided to call elections 18 months ahead of the nex scheduled polling time.
Last summer, the United Party, headed by sir de Villiers Graff, dissolved after almost three decades as the official opposition in Parliament. The United Party was a traditional home for English-speaking whites who, although they favored the NationalParty's racial policies, did not feel at home there culturally.
Graff found he could no longer hold his "centrist" party together because it was being fragmented on both the left and the right.
Many former United Party members merged with the smaller Democratic Party and formed the New Republic Party, which is going into the election holding 23 seats in Parliament. This party advocates a racially based federal solution for South Africa, with what it calls"maximum self-rule for each population group." It favors easing of discrimination but would not, for example, do away with segregation of housing.
A smaller group of the more rightist United Party members formed the small South African Party which has ended up sounding much like an English-speaking version of the Afrikaner National Party.
The rest of the former United Party members gravitated to the Progressive Reform Party, whose best-known member is Helen Suzman. The Party changed its name and platform slightly to accommodate the newcomers and is now known as the Progressive Federal Party. It is the most liberal party contesting.
The Progressives draw support mainly from affluent middle-aged English speakers - including mining magnate Harry oppenheimer - and young English and Afrikaner professionals. The party is also backed by most English-language newspapers.
It favors a geographic confederation in which residents of an area - black, white or "colored," as the mixed race are designated - would be represented at the national level according to where they live and not by their color. The party also advocates a qualified franshise that would, in the distant future, lead to majority rule. It favors the elimination of many discriminatory laws.
Some analysis are predicting that the New Republic Party will lose up to half of its 23 seats and that the progressives will add perhaps two seats to its current total of 18, thus inheriting the United Party's mantle as the "liberal" opposition.
"We want to end up the major opposition," said Suzman. The National Party is again expected to win at least 120 seats.
The result of all the shifting has been to confuse the electorate. After a recent survey, the Johannesburg Star said, "there is apathy, confusion and even irritation at the way old politcal institutions have crumbled. Many are bewildered by the changed names, changed tactics and changed allegiances."
The result can only benefit the national Party.
"I used to vote United Party. My father did also. But this time, I will vote nationalist. I have no choice," said an English-speaking Johannesburg car dealer.
In fact, the "liberal" opposition to the Nationalist Party is carrying on a trend evident since 1959, when the first major splinter from the United Party formed the Progressive Party. It is a trend of disunity and weak strategy.
A major attempt to unite the two parties last year was a dismal failure. As a result, there are more three-way races than ever before in which the new republic and Progressive Party. It is a trend of disunity and weak strategy.
A major attempt to unite the two parties last year was a dismal failure. As a result, there are more three-way races than ever before in which the new republic and Progressive candidates will split the opposition vote and allow the Nationalist candidate to win.