Pretoria: Voting ended peacefully in the fifth all-race polls in South Africa that are expected to return the ruling ANC to power, 20 years after anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela was first elected as president in 1994.
About 25 million registered voters - roughly half the population - trickled into some 22,263 polling centres across the country to vote in the first elections yesterday in which the `Born Frees` - people born in a democratic South Africa - exercised their franchise.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) Chairperson Pansy Tlakula said there were some technical glitches at a few polling stations, but no serious incidents were reported.
"The IEC would like to thank the South African voters who showed patience, tolerance, and dignity in exercising their right to vote today," Tlakula said at a media conference.
"Our country has again shown that we have much to be proud of as a nation that our democracy remains strong and vibrant."
Tlakula said challenges included power outages and shortages of ballot papers caused by voters going to polling stations outside of where they were registered to cast their votes, something permitted in terms of the law.
Under the proportional representation system, South Africans voted for parties, and not candidates, in two simultaneous ballots for national and provincial governments.
"Counting of tens of millions of provincial and national ballot papers will now continue throughout the night into tomorrow," Tlakula said at the huge Results Operations Centre here, where scores of local and international media have settled in to await the final results, expected by Saturday.
The first result for the constituency of Mount Ayliff in Eastern Cape Province showed the African National Congress (ANC) getting 148 votes, the main opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA)?three and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)? of Julius Malema, expelled?former ANC Youth League leader, got five.
The ANC is expected to retain power and return its leader Jacob Zuma to a second term as President despite concerns over corruption and lack of service delivery during his first term, with analysts hesitant to make firm predictions on figures for the other parties.
With a record number of 29 parties contesting the polls, opposition to the ANC is hugely fragmented, with some analysts touting EFF as the dark horse which could take away some of the seats that might have been won by the DA.
South Africans have been voting in a dual national and provincial ballot on a proportional representation system for parties, with the winning parties deciding on the national President and nine provincial premiers.
Until now, ANC has governed in eight of the provinces, while the DA controlled the Western Cape Province.