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South African Election Campaign Enters Final Days


In South Africa, campaigning is winding down as voters prepare to go to the polls Wednesday to elect a new parliament and provincial assemblies.

Special voting began Monday in South Africa for about 80,000 disabled, aged and pregnant voters and officials who will work on election day.

Registered voters in foreign countries cast their ballots last week at embassies around the world.

Election officials assured the public they were ready for Wednesday's vote and security forces deployed in areas where about 160 incidents of election-related violence have occurred.

Most political parties held their final major rallies Sunday.

The candidate of the opposition Congress of the People, Mvume Dandala, accused the ruling African National Congress of corruption and abuse of power.

"If you do not vote for the Congress of the People and things go wrong within the next few years, do not say you did not know," he said.

National television broadcast most of the political rallies live. But COPE leaders complained that it failed to televise their event. The broadcaster said it had experienced technical problems and broadcast the COPE rally early Monday.

COPE was formed four months ago by ANC leaders who split after the party leadership obliged former President Thabo Mbeki to resign with six months left in his term.

The head of the opposition Democratic Alliance, Helen Zille, also criticized the ANC record during its 15 years in power.

"The choice will be the difference between success or failure for South Africa," she said. "That, my friends, is the choice between the DA and the ANC."

But ANC President Jacob Zuma, speaking to more than 100,000 supporters in Johannesburg, called for unity and racial harmony.

"South Africa belongs to all of us, black and white," he said. "Working together we will ensure that no South African ever feels they are less valued than others because of their race, culture or religion."

He pledged to fight corruption and crime and to speed up the delivery of social services, sanitation and housing to the millions of poor who still lack them.

ANC supporters were energized by the appearance at the rally of former President Nelson Mandela. Though appearing frail, the 90-year-old anti-apartheid icon urged ANC leaders to remember their duty in a pre-recorded message.

"In the upcoming elections, let us remember our primary task," he said. "It is to eradicate poverty and ensure a better life for all."

The ANC is expected to win Wednesday's vote, making Zuma South Africa's next president.

But opposition parties are hoping to gain control of some provincial assemblies. They also hope to win enough votes nationwide to deprive the ruling party of the two-thirds majority in parliament that would allow it to amend the constitution unilaterally.

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