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Ruling ANC leading South Africa's election in — very — preliminary results

Results of South Africa’s fourth round of national and provincial elections since the end of apartheid have started trickling in, and the leading party is … the African National Congress.

The ruling ANC, which has won every election since 1994, has secured 63 percent of the 2.8 million ballots counted early Thursday, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) — the main opposition party — getting about 20 percent of the vote. The Congress of the People (Cope), which was formed by ANC dissidents late last year, got about 7 percent of the ballots counted so far.

These preliminary results represent only a small portion of the total number of votes. The exact turnout is not known yet, but a record 23.2 million South Africans have registered to vote, and the Independent Electoral Commission has said it is hoping for a turnout of 80 percent.

By law, the IEC has seven days to release final results, but it has said these could be in by the end of the week. The Associated Press reported that final results are expected late Thursday or Friday.

Wednesday’s election proceeded fairly smoothly, the IEC said. Few incidents were reported, and long lines formed at voting stations across the country.

There is little doubt that the ANC will win the national election, but one of the questions is whether it will retain the two-thirds majority it secured five years ago. In 2004, the ruling party got 69.7 percent of the vote, and opinion polls before the elections indicated it was on track to receive close to that percentage in this year’s election.

ANC leader Jacob Zuma told reporters this week that he expected his party to win an “overwhelming majority.” In the week before the poll, the DA launched a “Stop Zuma” campaign aiming to prevent the ANC from winning the two-thirds majority that would allow the ruling party to easily pass bills in parliament.

When the first results came in at about 11 p.m. Wednesday, the DA briefly appeared to have succeeded. In the first count, the DA was seen leading the ANC by the razor-thin margin of two votes (52 to 50). The lead was short-lived, but was enjoyed nonetheless by DA leader Helen Zille.

“It’s nice to be leading a national election,” Zille was quoted as saying in South Africa’s Times newspaper.