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Most S. African Voters Register for Election - 2004-01-29


Two thirds of South Africa's eligible voters have registered for the country's elections to be held in March or April.

Nearly 21 million people, more than two thirds of eligible voters have registered to vote in upcoming general elections. These elections are the third fully democratic elections in South Africa since the end of apartheid.

The independent electoral commission says that in its final intensive voter registration drive, held this past weekend, 60 percent of those who registered were between the ages of 18 and 25. This has brought the level of registration in this age group to more than half, easing concerns of widespread apathy among young adults.

President Mbeki will announce the election date on February 11 and it is expected that he will tell South Africans that they will go to the polls in late March or early April, in time for the result to be known by April 27, the 10th anniversary of South African democracy.

There are no surprises expected in this poll, the ruling African National Congress is expected to be returned to power, some pundits say with an increased majority in the parliament.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mbeki's motorcade was briefly blocked by supporters of the Zulu dominated Inkatha Freedom Party in KwaZulu/Natal province early Thursday. The president was on his way an imbizo, or townhall meeting in Tugela Ferry.

There are some concerns that political violence could mar the election in KwaZulu/Natal, where 20,000 people died in a decade-long bloody power struggle between Inkatha and the ANC prior to 1994.

Mr. Mbeki said party leaders will meet next week to address the issue and urged supporters of both sides to ensure that the voters of KwaZulu/Natal are able to exercise their voting rights without fear of intimidation.

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