With most of the vote counting done the ruling African National Congress looks set to achieve its goal of winning a two-thirds majority in South Africa's national assembly. The official announcement is expected Saturday.
Jacob Zuma and his ANC started celebrating early. At a victory celebration billed as a thank-you party for party workers and volunteers, he said he expects an overwhelming mandate.
"I am happy as the counting is going on, I am told millions have voted for the ANC," he said.
With a resounding victory for his party, Zuma is assured of being elected by the ANC dominated parliament as the country's third president since the advent of democracy in 1994. His anticipated inauguration on May 9 will, for him, be a successful conclusion to his single-minded struggle of nearly 10 years to hold South Africa's highest office.
The election has brought mixed fortunes for other parties. The Democratic Alliance (DA), under feisty new leader Helen Zille has done much better nationally than it did in 2004 and looks set to be the official opposition in the national assembly with about 15 percent of the 400-seat house.
The DA has improved its showing in the Western Cape province and looks set to win a simply majority there and thus be able to govern the province without forming a coalition.
The Congress of the People (COPE), which is just four months old, will be the third largest party in parliament with about eight percent of the seats. It looks to edge the DA aside to become the official opposition in several provinces, and party official Juli Killian says the party is very pleased with its performance.
"We have received the necessary mandate from South Africans to build the party, to effect change and therefore the footprint that we have established in the different provinces as well as nationally is really giving us a good platform and we are going to work from there," said Killian.
The Inkatha Freedom Party of Mangosuthu Buthelezi has lost most of its national support and in its stronghold province KwaZulu/Natal, which it won in 1994, it will have to settle for about 20 percent.
Several smaller parties have also lost significant ground, already prompting suggestions from some they should consider joining with other opposition parties.