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Jacob Zuma Elected President of South Africa

South Africa's parliament has elected African National Congress leader, Jacob Zuma, to be the country's next president. The vote came two weeks after the ANC swept national elections.

African National Congress delegates Wednesday sang and danced on the floor of the national assembly in Cape Town as they elected African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma the country's next president.

Following the vote, Mr. Zuma pledged to lead South Africa toward becoming a united, non-racial, non-sexist nation.

"With the support of my organization, the ANC, as well as all South Africans, I hope to lead the country on a path of friendship, cooperation, harmony, unity and faster change," Mr. Zuma said.

Mr. Zuma was nominated by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of anti-apartheid icon and former president Nelson Mandela.

"I nominate for the president of the Republic of South Africa, the president of the African National Congress, the man of the people, the honorable member, Mr. Jacob Zuma," Mandela said.

The ANC won nearly 66 percent of the vote and 264 parliamentary seats in elections characterized by an intense campaign and high voter turn-out.

But it was deprived of a two-thirds majority and lost control of Western Cape Province because of gains by two opposition parties, the Cape-based Democratic Alliance and a new party formed by ANC dissidents, the Congress of the People, COPE.

In parliament, COPE, through its leader Mbhazima Shilowa, nominated its own candidate for the presidency, Mvume Dandala.

"I, Mbhazima Shilowa, have the pleasure to nominate for the position of president of the republic Hamilton Mvume Dandala," Shilowa said.

Dandala was COPE's presidential candidate and heads its 30-member block in parliament.

The Democratic Alliance did not field a presidential candidate in the popular elections. But its decision to abstain from the parliamentary vote came as a surprise as the two parties had said they would work together in the opposition.

South Africa's nine provincial assemblies also convened Wednesday and chose the provincial governors.

Mr. Zuma's election caps a remarkable political comeback. He was forced to resign as deputy-president four years ago, but fought off corruption and rape charges to gain control of the ANC at a party convention 18 months ago.

He has pledged to create jobs, fight poverty and deliver more social services to South Africans, 40 percent of whom live on less than $2.00 per day.

Analysts say one of his greatest challenges will be to satisfy the aspirations of the poor, union workers and left-leaning members of the party, while maintaining the confidence of businessmen and foreign investors.

President-elect Zuma is to be inaugurated Saturday in Pretoria and announce his government on Sunday.