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21 Apr 2009 19:29
Millions of South Africans go to the polls on Wednesday in the most hotly contested general election since the advent of black majority rule in 1994.
Just more than 23-million people are registered as potential voters, and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which has printed 53-million national and provincial ballot papers, said this week it expected a massive turnout.
Forty parties, ranging from the A-Party to Ximoko, are contesting the elections, 26 of them nationally.
Key to the level of interest has been the challenge by African National Congress (ANC) breakaway movement Congress of the People (Cope), which was still insisting only hours before voting stations opened that it was going to win a clear majority.
Surveys have, however, been less sanguine, with the latest Ipsos-Markinor opinion poll predicting the ANC will retain its two-thirds majority.
The party’s president Jacob Zuma declared on Tuesday that the ANC was confident of a resounding victory.
“We anticipate a massive turnout at the polls tomorrow, and we expect that the people of this country will once again give the ANC a huge and decisive mandate,” he said.
Analysts, however, expect the ANC to be toppled from power in the Western Cape, where the party has been hard-hit by leadership struggles and a lack of organisation.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille appears set to become the province’s new premier, even if she gets the post only as head of a coalition government.
On a final election sweep through the Cape Flats on Tuesday, she was mobbed by coloured supporters at Blue Downs, where she said on Wednesday would show the world that South Africa was a real democracy in which a sitting provincial government could be voted out.
“The blue tide of the DA will wash away the ANC,” she said.
In KwaZulu-Natal, where simmering tensions between the ANC and the IFP have led to it being flagged as a security hotspot, Defence Minister Charles Nqakula said on Tuesday he did not believe there would be violence on election day.
“There are tensions, but the security sector are available in the area.
Police recently arrested 60 people in the province for election-related crimes and confiscated a number of illegal weapons.
The government has in the past few weeks deployed national police intervention units, intelligence units and defence force members in the province.
Zuma will cast his vote in his rural KwaZulu-Natal home village Nkandla, while caretaker president Kgalema Motlanthe will make his X at a polling station in Colbin, Pretoria.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who at one stage threatened not to take part in the poll unless the ANC resolved its internal divisions, will vote in Cape Town.
Voters who are outside their home provinces on election day can still vote on the national ballot at any other of the 19 726 polling stations nationwide.
According to the IEC, the total weight of those 53-million ballots is 450 tons, while that of the 1,6-million-page print run of voters’ rolls is 6,4 tons.
A total of 120 000 bottles of indelible ink will be on hand to mark voters’ hands once they have cast their votes.
The poll will be watched by 4 900 domestic observers, 355 international observers and 358 diplomats from 61 embassies.
According to the South African Weather Service, voters in parts of the Eastern Cape and in the Northern Cape should take their brollies when they go to vote, but rest of the country will enjoy reasonable weather on Wednesday.—Sapa
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