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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 10:10 GMT
Q&A: South Africa's polls

When are the elections being held and how do they work?

South Africa's third democratic general elections are being held on 14 April.

Mbeki waves to well-wishers as he arrives at Parliament
Thabo Mbeki should be re-elected easily
Voting for the 400 members of parliament takes place by proportional representation. The president is then voted for by the newly-elected MPs.

The ruling African National Congress is expected to retain its majority and then vote in President Thabo Mbeki for his second five-year term.

This is likely to be on 27 April - exactly 10 years after the historic first all race elections - which saw Nelson Mandela inaugurated as South Africa's first black president.

What are the main issues?

Essentially the debate will be about whether the majority of people's lives have improved in the past decade under the ANC.

The ANC say it has made huge strides on basic needs like housing, electricity and water and have run a successful economy.

The opposition say it has presided over sharp increases in unemployment, crime and the spread of Aids. They also allege growing corruption and anti-democratic tendencies.

The ANC is seeking to extend their electoral domination.

At present thanks to defections and alliances it controls all provinces except KwaZulu-Natal. It really wants to win the province this time round.

It also wants to retain its narrow two-thirds majority in parliament which enables it to amend the constitution.

Who are the opposition?

The main opposition party is the Democratic Alliance led by white politician Tony Leon.

It only secured 10% of the vote in 1999. It has though arranged a strategic alliance with the Inkatha Freedom Party, which still controls KwaZulu-Natal province and is strongly supported among the Zulus.

The former ruling party during apartheid, the National Party, transformed itself into the New National Party, and has formed an election alliance with the ANC.

Any controversies likely to arise?

South Africa has a lively and independent media, and its coverage is likely to generate as much debate as comments from politicians.

The live coverage of an ANC rally ahead of the announcement of an election date by the state broadcaster has already prompted angry complaints from the opposition of state media bias.

Mr Mbeki's heavily criticised handling of the Aids crisis remains a sensitive issue and any off message comments from ANC politicians - especially from his predecessor Nelson Mandela - are bound to be seized upon by the opposition and the media.

KwaZulu-Natal is another sensitive area. Many thousands of people died in election related violence there in the early 1990s. With the ANC targeting the province, tensions are running high, and there has been recent campaign violence and a number of political deaths.

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