As South Africans cast ballots Wednesday in a parliamentary election that will determine a new president, forecasts show the ruling party's Jacob Zuma is likely to win. NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault describes the challenges that will confront the nation's new leader, including rising unemployment and high crime rates.
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The polls have now officially closed in South Africa's fourth national election since the end of apartheid 15 years ago.
Voters are choosing members of parliament, who will pick a president, and that choice is widely expected to be Jacob Zuma, a one-time anti-apartheid fighter and head of the ruling African National Congress Party.
Zuma and the ANC face a formidable list of problems: rising unemployment, officially at 22 percent and believed to be double that; an HIV-AIDS crisis; and high crime rates.
For more, we go to Charlayne Hunter-Gault of National Public Radio in Pretoria.
And, Charlayne, welcome. You were at the polls today. Tell us what the turnout was like and what the atmosphere was like.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, National Public Radio:
This has been the most amazing turnout since I covered the 1994 elections for the NewsHour, in fact. The lines were very, very long. People stood in line from 3 o'clock this morning.
And the polls, as you just said, have officially closed, but there are people standing in line now. One man I heard on the radio coming over here to this studio saying he had been in line since 8 o'clock this morning. It's now after 9 o'clock, and he hasn't had a chance to vote.
So there's a real excitement in the air. As the electoral commission has said, this is like a watershed, a one-of-a-kind election.