Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 14:26 UK

In pictures: South Africa votes

People queue to vote in Khayelitsha

Braving wintry weather, millions of South Africans voted to elect a national parliament and provincial legislatures. Some turned up before it got light.

South Africans wait to vote in Soweto

Many spent hours waiting in long queues, in what is seen as one of South Africa's most competitive elections in recent years.

Prisoner at Pretoria's Maximum Security prison, CMAX, places his vote in the ballot box (pic: Jason Boswell)

Voting took place in Pretoria's Maximum Security prison, CMAX. Prisoners have been allowed to vote in South Africa since 1999. Photo: Jason Boswell

Woman talks on her phone in the queue

At stake is the ruling ANC's two-thirds majority, amid growing disillusion among some of its supporters.

Cope workers in the township of Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town

Cope (Congress of the People) is hoping to capitalise on that disillusion. Its presidential candidate, Mvume Dandala, described the party, formed only a few months ago, as a "baby with teeth".

A woman prepares her ballot

If Cope did grab the second spot, it would displace the Democratic Alliance - seen as mainly a party of the white and coloured (mixed-race) minorities.

Ballot paper

The election may also be affected by the tough economic conditions as South Africa - seen as the continent's economic powerhouse - heads for its first recession in 17 years.

Woman kisses her ballot in Soweto polling station

For many black South Africans, almost two decades after apartheid, voting remains a privilege of great symbolism.

Nelson Mandela voting in Johannesburg

And among those voting was Nelson Mandela, key to apartheid's downfall.

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