UPDATED, May 9, 7:30 a.m. EDT
The African National Congress has won a commanding victory in South Africa's general election, according to the BBC.
With about 96 percent of the results in, the ANC has 62 percent of the vote, followed by its main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, with 22 percent. The new, populist, left-wing party, Economic Freedom Fighters, is in third place with just 6 percent of the electorate. It advocates nationalization of mines.
The electoral commission said voting went peacefully in most areas, with turnout at just over 73 percent in South Africa's first elections since the death in December of Nelson Mandela. The elections mark 20 years since the end of white-minority rule.
Dissatisfaction with the government has been growing over high levels of unemployment (25 percent), a lack of basic services and allegations of widespread corruption. President Jacob Zuma has built a palatial house costing taxpayers 246 million rand ($23 million or 13.7 million pounds) in KwaZulu-Natal, one of South Africa's poorest provinces.
An ANC victory would return Zuma for a second five-year term. Speaking as he cast his vote on Wednesday, Zuma said he thought "the results will be very good," but added that the campaign had been "very challenging." In the last election in 2009, the ANC saw a slight drop in support, polling at 66 percent.
The ANC is assured of maintaining its majority in the 400-seat parliament, which formally appoints the president. The party is likely to use its mandate to try to drive through its National Development Plan -- rejecting nationalization of industry, and emphasizing investment and infrastructure, the BBC reports. South Africa's economy has been affected by mining strikes, electricity outages and falling exports to China.
The Democratic Alliance (DA), which ran on a platform of increasing jobs, has increased its share of the vote from 17 percent in the last election to 22 percent, according to the latest results. The Democratic Alliance could increase its share of seats in parliament from 67 to seats to 90.
Early on Thursday, DA leader Helen Zille told AFP news agency that she expected her party's final vote to be around 23 percent. "We'll see how it goes. Of course, we hope it will be more. We did as much as we could," she is quoted as saying.
The DA has been trying to increase its share of the black vote; its support is mainly concentrated in the Western Cape province, which has a large white and mixed-race population. The DA controls the province, the only one of nine provinces in South Africa not under ANC power. Zille, who is white, is the premier of the province. A provincial vote was held at the same time as the national vote. The latest results show that this main opposition party has also made gains in other parts of the country, including Gauteng province.
The party that finished third, the Economic Freedom Fighters, is led by Julius Malema, a radical who was expelled from the ANC. His party promises a huge redistribution of wealth. The BBC projected that the new party could gain 23 parliamentary seats.