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By Hassan Isilow</p> <p>JOHANNESBURG (AA) – Polling stations closed in South Africa’s hotly contested elections Wednesday at 9 p.m. (2000GMT) local time, and counting is expected to start soon.</p> <p>Millions of South Africans braced cold and rainy weather to cast votes for new members of the National and Provincial legislatures in the country’s sixth general elections.</p> <p>Queues were reported at most polling stations across the country where voters said they wanted their voice to heard.</p> <p>“I voted because I want to see change and a better life for all South Africans,” an elderly voter told Anadolu Agency after casting her vote in Soweto, south of the country’s largest city of Johannesburg.</p> <p>President Cyril Ramaphosa who is running on the ticket of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) received a thunderous applause when he arrived to vote at a school in Soweto.</p> <p>Supporters cheered the president and sang praises as a large media contingent followed him around the station amid tight security.</p> <p>“This is a vote that reminds us of 1994, when our people were energized to cast their vote and they see they are heralding in a new dawn. A new beginning, a period of renewal and it's also a period of hope,&quot; Ramaphosa said shortly after casting his vote.</p> <p>Ramaphosa, who replaced scandal tainted Jacob Zuma last year, has promised to fight graft, reduce unemployment and grow the economy.</p> <p>Some South Africans compare his leadership to the late Nelson Mandela’s, the country’s first black president who took office in 1994 after the end of apartheid which allowed blacks to vote for the first time.</p> <p>&quot;The response of our people to voting is just amazing,” he said referring to the long queues of votes.</p> <p>This year’s election coincides with the nation’s 25th anniversary of its first democratic elections. </p> <p>Almost 27 million South Africans were eligible to vote in this year’s election.</p> <p>A record 48 political parties are participating in the elections but the main contest is expected to be between three parties — the ruling Africa National Congress, Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.</p> <p>Among the major issues affecting South Africans are unemployment, crimes and corruption.</p> <p>

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