South Africa's ruling African National Congress has swept Wednesday's elections. But it has failed to win the two-thirds majority it sought and has lost control of a major province.
The head of South Africa's Electoral Commission, Brigalia Bam, Saturday expressed satisfaction as the final results were announced from Wednesday's national and provincial elections.
"The Election Commision of South Africa is proud to declare the 2009 elections free and fair and that they reflect the will of the people of South African voters. I thank you," said Brigalia.
The Commission said the African National Congress had won nearly 66 percent of the vote giving it 264 of parliament's 400 seats.
But this was less than one percent short of the two-thirds majority the ANC had campaigned for and four percentage points less than it won in elections five years ago.
Nevertheless, the victory means ANC head Jacob Zuma is on track to be chosen South Africa's next president when the new parliament convenes in two weeks (May 6).
Mr. Zuma, in remarks on national television, pledged continuity and good governance.
"We will work with all parties represented in parliament to deepen the oversight role of parliament. Together we must promote and defend the integrity of our state institutions including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies," he said.
Mr. Zuma had battled corruption and rape charges in court cases that polarized public opinion. The latest corruption case was dismissed two weeks ago because of alleged political interference.
The opposition Democratic Alliance won 67 parliamentary seats, polling 16 percent of the vote or four points more than in the last elections.
The DA also won control of the Western Cape provincial assembly due largely to public satisfaction with the performance of its leader, Helen Zille, as mayor of Cape Town, the country's second largest city.
The Congress of the People, which was formed four months ago by disgruntled former ANC leaders, took 30 parliamentary seats after winning seven percent of the vote.
Mr. Zuma said the various parties might disagree on some issues but underscored that the country belonged to all South Africans regardless of race, religion or culture.
"We'll need to work together on issues that are in the national interest on which there is no need to compete or permanently bicker," he said.
Observers said these elections were the most exciting since the vote in 1994 that marked the end of apartheid.
Voter turnout was 77 percent with many voters standing in line for hours in cool weather to cast their ballots.
International observers praised the elections as orderly and well organized.