JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africans of all races tested their new democracy Wednesday, waiting patiently in long lines to choose a new government five years after Nelson Mandela's election ended the tyranny of apartheid.
Voting went forward peacefully in a parliamentary election the ruling African National Congress is expected to win easily.Mandela, who is credited with bringing about the amazingly peaceful transition of power to an angry black majority, will retire June 16, ending a term aimed at reconciliation in a nation still divided by a shameful past.
His hand-picked successor, Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, is expected to lead the governing African National Congress to a landslide victory and begin a term aimed at materially improving the lives of millions of disadvantaged blacks. The new National Assembly will formally elect Mandela's successor on June 14.
Millions of South Africans voted Wednesday in ramshackle black townships, wealthy white suburbs, in villages in the Karoo desert and near the wind-whipped Cape of Good Hope.
In black townships, lines were up to a third of a mile long, with some people standing outside polling stations all night.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm," Mbeki said.
Mandela cast his ballot at a country club in an upscale Johannesburg neighborhood, his thumb marked with ink to show he had voted.
"It is a wonderful experience," declared Mandela, who was jailed for 27 years for fighting apartheid, which denied blacks the vote and most other basic rights.
Mandela asked South Africans to vote for the ANC -- but above all to vote peacefully. About 100,000 soldiers and police patrolled the country.
Opposition parties tried to rally voters to prevent the ANC from winning a two-thirds majority in Parliament, warning that would allow the party to tamper with the constitution and consolidate power. Mbeki has denied such plans.