From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Apr 11 2010 - 13:20:24 EDT
Sudan holds historic multi-party poll
Posted Sunday, April 11 2010 at 12:14
* Elections are the first multi-party polls in 24 years in Africa's
* Process could prove drawn out, with some voters in the south having
to cast 12 times
* Results of the vote are set to be announce on April 18
* Southern Sudan set to hold referendum in January 2011, current vote
seen as prelude
Voters in Sudan are casting their ballots in the first multi-party elections
in 24 years.
The polls for president, parliament and state assemblies are being held as
part of the peace deal that ended the civil war between north and south
But several key parties and politicians opposed to President Omar al-Bashir
are boycotting the vote amid fraud fears.
Some 100,000 police officers will be deployed to ensure the vote, which
continues until Tuesday, goes on smoothly.
For many in southern Sudan, these elections are a prelude to a referendum
next January on possible independence. There is palpable excitement in the
streets of Southern Sudan's Juba.
South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir had to take a seat and wait for half an
hour while the cardboard voting booths were set up at a polling station in
Under the gaze of international observers, he spent 20 minutes casting his
"This is my first time to vote and it is a good beginning that Sudan is
going back to democracy. I hope it will be a foundation for future
democracy," said Mr Kiir after voting.
The 16 million registered voters have until Tuesday to decide but some
turned up on Sunday before polls opened to make sure they could cast their
It was meant to be a significant moment for Sudan, marking the
transformation from basically a military and Islamist government to a
democratic one, but the election has been marred by the number of
withdrawals, says the BBC's Martin Plaut in Omdurman.
The National Elections Commission has insisted that the three days of voting
will be free and fair.
Abel Alier, the chairman of the Elections Commission, was adamant that his
organisation had not favoured the National Congress Party of President
But the electoral body failed to convince the parties opposed to President
Bashir, who pulled out in protest at alleged rigging of the vote.
We know that there are no perfect elections, and these polls will not be an
exception to that rule," said Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah, a top official at the
"These elections will not suddenly transform Sudan into a democratic
society. That will take time and experience."
President Bashir needs a democratic mandate since being indicted by the
International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the western region of
Darfur, says the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum.
The polls are extremely complicated, made all the more so because names of
those who have withdrawn are still on the ballot papers.
The elections are also a huge logistical challenge for a country where where
the infrastructure is poor. The ongoing low-level civil war in Darfur is an
If the election is complicated throughout the country, in Southern Sudan it
is even more so as people are also choosing their own regional president and
Many there are already looking beyond these elections to next January's
referendum, when southerners will vote on possible independence.
The north-south civil war ended in 2005, with a deal for the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) to share power with Mr Bashir's National Congress
Party nationally, but enjoy considerable autonomy in the south.
President Bashir has said he will accept the referendum result, even if it
favours independence for the south.
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