Tags: Sudan | voting | election | campaign

Sudan Continues Voting in Tainted Election

Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:33 AM

KHARTOUM – Sudanese voters cast ballots on the last day of landmark elections on Thursday as tensions mounted over alleged violations in a vote already marred by a major opposition boycott.

The head of the ruling National Congress Party in Bahr al-Ghazal state told AFP that the southern army had killed the party's top representative in the town of Raja as well as seven civilians.

But the report, which came a day after President Omar al-Beshir's National Congress Party reached out to the opposition in a bid to save the vote's credibility, could not be confirmed.

And nine people died, including an NCP member, in the remote southern village of Temsah in violence unrelated to the polls but rather a case of "adultery," according to Kuol Diem Kuol, spokesman for the former rebel Southern People's Liberation Army (SPLM).

Lam Akol, a candidate for the south's leadership, said on Tuesday that the southern army had killed two voters in Unity State, but the charge was denied by Kuol and a diplomat said such reports had to be treated sensitively.

"We have to be cautious because as the results approach, the accusations themselves get can lead people to commit things," the diplomat told AFP.

As the five-day polling began to wind down, Sudanese feared the announcement of results in the more contested areas, particularly in the south, would lead to tensions and possibly clashes.

"We just need peace. They should just do their job correctly and give us peace," Salwa al-Amir, a retired air hostess said, stressing she was worried about troubles across the country.

Some 16 million registered voters are being asked to choose their president as well as legislative and local representatives in the country's first multi-party election since 1986.

But the vote kicked off in chaos on Sunday, before delays and logistical problems prompted the National Election Commission to extend polling by two days to end on Thursday.

Many voters were left frustrated when polling stations due to open at 8:00 am (0500 GMT) failed to do so, names were missing or misspelled on voter lists, and ballot boxes went to the wrong polling stations.

Before polling began, the poll's credibility had already been marred by a boycott of the opposition, including the heavyweight Umma Party, whose leader Sadiq al-Mahdi was meant to challenge Beshir in the presidential race.

The SPLM, partners in a national unity government, boycotted the vote in most northern states and withdrew their candidate for national president Yasser Arman.

With both key challengers out of the way, Beshir looks set for a comfortable win.

By contrast, the legislative and local polls were still fiercely competitive in many parts of the country.

The boycott was announced after ballot papers had been printed, leaving the possibility open for individual candidates to run and win at the legislative and local levels, despite at boycott by their parties.

On Wednesday, the NCP said that if it won the landmark elections, it would invite the opposition to join a future government.

Presidential adviser Ghazi Salaheddin said that "given the challenges facing the nation," the NCP was interested in "our government being as inclusive as possible."

"If we are declared winners... we would extend the invitation to all parties, even those who have not participated in the elections, because we believe this is a critical moment in our history," Salaheddin told reporters.

"If they decide not to join the government, not to heed the offer, they would be isolating themselves from the process," he said.

The election is a prelude to a 2011 referendum on southern independence.

"We are facing an important decision like self-determination in the south and we would like to garner as much support and as much consensus as we can," Salaheddin said.

The results of the election are not expected before April 20.

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KHARTOUM – Sudanese voters cast ballots on the last day of landmark elections on Thursday as tensions mounted over alleged violations in a vote already marred by a major opposition boycott.
Thursday, 15 April 2010 10:33 AM
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