Page last updated at 12:21 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 13:21 UK

Zuma calls for 'massive' turnout

Jacob Zuma: 'There is... excitement about this election'

Jacob Zuma has said his party expects a "massive" turnout in South African elections to be held on Wednesday.

The African National Congress (ANC) leader encouraged supporters to make this the biggest turnout in the country's history.

He said the emergence of the opposition Congress of the People (Cope) had "re-energised" the ANC.

These elections are the "most exciting" the ANC has had to fight since coming to power in 1994, he said.

The party split last year with disaffected members forming Cope.

Mr Zuma has also faced corruption charges which were dismissed by a court with just weeks to go before voting.

"There is no cloud above my head, there is not even a mist," he told journalists in his final press briefing before polls open.

The ANC is widely expected to win by a big margin, which would lead to Mr Zuma being elected by the members of parliament.

Voter boost

This year more voters registered with the Independent Election Commission than before, raising the total number of eligible voters to more than 23 million.

23m registered voters
19,700 polling stations
9,130 candidates - 3,511 female
2,000 soldiers deployed
4,000 local observers, 153 from abroad

Many of the new voters are young people who have little memory of the struggle to end white minority rule, which brought the ANC to power.

Analysts say the emergence of Cope in November last year could have accounted for the boost in voter numbers.

But polls have recorded Cope's popularity falling since then.

"As they emerged, people decided they weren't what they thought," political scientist Bob Mattes told the BBC.

Cope has fielded a relatively unknown presidential candidate, former Bishop Mvume Dandala, who has struggled to make an impact on the public scene, analysts say.

Around 200,000 ANC supporters filled several stadia on Sunday to see Mr Zuma address them via satellite link from a rally in Johannesburg's Ellis Park.

A Cope rally in Polokwane Limpopo province attracted around 5,000 supporters.

'Cultural revolution'

Some say the real battle is between Cope and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, for second place.

Neither party has ruled out entering into a coalition after the election.

Voters in South Africa give their views on the most competitive elections since the end of apartheid

An opposition coalition would provide the biggest challenge to the ANC since it was first elected in 1994.

DA leader Helen Zille has said her party wants to deny the ANC a two-thirds majority this time around.

They say the ANC want to change the constitution to make it harder to prosecute politicians for corruption.

Mr Zuma has said the Constitutional Court "like all institutions, needs reform", but the ANC respected the separation of powers and simply wanted to speed up the courts decisions.

Mr Zuma has had corruption charges relating to a government arms deal against him dropped twice in the last two years.

The National Prosecuting Authority withdrew the charges in April after phone tap recordings of the lead investigator and prosecutor suggested there had been political interference in the prosecution.

Mr Zuma has always said he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

But his financial adviser was convicted of fraud and corruption in 2005, and was sentenced to 15 years.

He was released on medical grounds in March.

Political commentator Xolela Mangcu says this is the first time that the country is about to be led by someone not from the educated elite of black society.

"There is a cultural revolution in the ANC," he said.

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