PRETORIA, South Africa — South Africa's ruling party led its rivals in early election results on Thursday after a campaign in which the opposition tried to woo voters unhappy with alleged corruption and a lack of opportunities for the poor.

Results released by the national election commission showed the African National Congress with about 63 percent and the opposition Democratic Alliance with 22.5 percent after about 8.5 million votes had been counted in Wednesday's election. The Economic Freedom Fighters, a new party that wants to redistribute the country's resources to the poor, was third with nearly 5 percent.

More than 25 million South Africans, or half the population, had registered to vote in the fifth all-race polls in South Africa since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

The African National Congress, which led the fight against apartheid, has dominated politics since Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president in 1994. On the ruling party's watch, millions of people have gained access to water and other basic services, but protests routinely erupt in areas where residents say the government has ignored their needs.

President Jacob Zuma has become enmeshed in a scandal surrounding more than $20 million in state spending on his private home in the Nkandla area, though he denies any wrongdoing and has promised to work against graft.

In the last election in 2009, the African National Congress fell just short of a two-thirds majority.

The opposition Democratic Alliance is a centrist party led by former journalist and anti-apartheid activist Helen Zille, and the Economic Freedom Fighters is headed by Julius Malema, a former head of the ruling party's youth league.