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South African Parties File Lists for April Elections

In South Africa, battle lines have firmed and campaigning is heating up for national elections in two months.

South Africa moved a step closer Monday to national elections as political parties registered their candidates with the Independent Electoral Commission.

More than 23 million people are registered to vote on April 22. Nearly two-million of these are newly registered voters, many of them young people who have reached the minimum voting age of 18 years since the last election five years ago.

The African National Congress, which has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid 15 years ago, is expected to win a majority of the seats in the next parliament. But the two-thirds majority it has enjoyed in the outgoing legislature is seen as threatened.

The ANC presidential candidate, Jacob Zuma, is promising to do more for South Africa's poor majority who feel they have been left out of an economic boom that has raised standards of living for the emerging black middle class.

But Mr. Zuma also wants to reassure businessmen and the international community his party will not abandon policies that have fostered growth.

"Nothing will change. We will continue with the programs," Zuma said. "Where adjustments will be made, they will be made within the broad framework of policy because our policy is not determined by individuals but by the [ANC] organization."

Mr. Zuma is campaigning under a cloud of corruption charges and is due to go on trial in August. He says if he is found guilty he will step down.

Voter interest has been heightened by a new party created by former ANC leaders who split after the party obliged former President Thabo Mbeki to resign with six months remaining in his term.

The Congress of the People, known as COPE, is hoping to attract the support of voters who are unhappy with what they see as growing corruption and abuse of power under the ANC.

As part of this appeal, COPE has selected as its presidential candidate a Methodist minister, Mvume Dandala, who was recently head of the Africa Council of Churches.

"It is time that people choose a government that is going to give them respect, choose a government that is going to stick to certain values that our communities know," Dandala said.

COPE was buoyed Sunday when former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka joined the party. She was one of several cabinet ministers who resigned their posts in sympathy with Mr. Mbeki's removal.

The Democratic Alliance, led by Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille, is also seeking to broaden its power base. Zille told national television she wants to end the ANC's control of Western Cape Province through alliances with other opposition parties.

"We will certainly look at forming coalitions. The Democratic Alliance pioneered coalitions in South Africa. We have said from the start [that] it is part of realigning politics as a whole," Zille said.

The Democratic Alliance will also be competing against the Independent Democrats of Patricia de Lille which is also strong in the province.

The Inkatha Freedom Party led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi is seeking to regain control of southeastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province.

Some incidents of political related violence, including several murders, have been reported although all party leaders have called for a peaceful campaign.

More than 150 parties have been registered, a leap from the two-dozen parties that competed in the first democratic elections in 1994.