South Africans are preparing to vote Wednesday in national and provincial elections. Candidates are making last-minute appeals to voters.

South Africa's Independent Electoral Commission Chairman Brigalia Bam said her organization is expecting a turnout as high as 80 percent, because nearly three-million new voters are registered.

"If people make a special effort to get their ID's, they make a special effort to register, that is always a sign of people who are interested," said Barn.
ANC President Jacob Zuma reacts during a news conference on the eve of a parliamentary vote, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 21 Apr 2009

The head of the ruling African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, said this campaign has been the most exciting since the one that ended apartheid in 1994.

"We know that our people have great expectations as the ANC campaign message has captured their imagination," said Zuma. "They will expect faster action and visible change in their lives."

He said the ANC, if victorious, would exert all its energy to meet these expectations and work with all South Africans to build a nation of growing opportunities for all.

The ANC is expected to win the vote, making Mr. Zuma South Africa's next president. But opposition parties are campaigning hard, hoping to deprive the ANC of its two-thirds majority in parliament and win control of some provincial assemblies.

Most parties agree on the major issues. These include greater efforts to combat poverty and unemployment and to accelerate delivery of education, health-care and sanitation services to the millions who still do not have them.

But in the final days of the campaign, much of the opposition's rhetoric has focused on the ruling party's record and the need for change.

The leader of the Independent Democrats, Patricia De Lille, accused the ANC of abuse of power and of using patronage to influence the vote.

"They [ANC] are not democrats. They are not respecting the diversity in our society," she said. "They are not respecting your choice to vote for the political party of your choice."

Twenty-three-million voters are registered to cast ballots at 19,000 polling centers across the nation.

Thousands of observers are being deployed as monitors from political parties, the African Union, the Southern African Development Community and dozens of South African organizations.