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ANC Holds Strong Lead in South African Election

Partial results from South Africa's general election give the ruling African National Congress a strong lead, possibly enabling the party to keep its two-thirds majority in parliament.

With about half of the ballots counted Thursday, the ANC had just over 66 percent of the vote, putting party leader Jacob Zuma in line to become president when the new parliament convenes in May.

A crowd of jubilant ANC supporters gathered in Johannesburg late Thursday for a victory celebration, where they were thanked by the controversial but popular Zuma.

The Democratic Alliance was in second place nationally with about 16 percent, but looked likely to win control of Western Cape province away from the ANC.

South Africa's newest opposition party, the Congress of the People, or COPE, was trailing a distant third with about 8 percent.

COPE split off from the ANC last year and had been thought of as a potentially strong new challenger.

The ANC's two-thirds majority in parliament allows it to amend the constitution without the cooperation of other parties.

Although the vote was peaceful in much of the country, a COPE official in Eastern Cape province was shot dead, in what party officials are calling a political killing.

ANC leader Zuma is poised to take over the nation's highest office after overcoming a rape charge and repeated charges of corruption. He and his supporters have dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

The Independent Electoral Commission so far estimates that around 77 percent of South Africa's 23 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballots.

Final election results are expected Saturday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.