By Tiisetso Motsoeneng
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) held an early lead as votes were counted on Thursday, a day after millions cast their ballots in the country's first "Born Free" election.
The ANC, the liberation party that swept to power under the leadership of Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid in 1994, had 55.8 percent of the vote after the results from nearly 20 percent of polling stations had been counted, the electoral commission said.
The ANC's nearest rival, the Democratic Alliance, held 31 percent as it looks to make up more ground after polling 16.7 percent nationwide at the last general election in 2009.
(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Paul Tait)