From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Fri Apr 16 2010 - 09:41:05 EDT
Sudan begins counting in polls marred by boycotts
Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:23am GMT
* Vote count begins after polling extended by two days
* Election tainted by boycotts and fraud accusations
By Opheera McDoom
KHARTOUM, April 16 (Reuters) - Sudan began counting millions of ballots on
Friday after five days of voting in the first open polls in 24 years,
tainted by boycotts and accusations of fraud.
Despite decades of civil war and a heavily armed population the presidential
and legislative voting witnessed no major armed violence, a step forward for
the oil-producing country hoping to evolve into a democracy ahead of a
referendum next year on independence for south Sudan.
With opposition parties and candidates boycotting much of the north, it is
almost certain there will be no change of leadership in both north and
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir -- wanted by the International Criminal
Court to face war crimes charges over Darfur -- is likely to be confirmed as
president of the republic and Salva Kiir should remain president of
semi-autonomous south Sudan, given his party's dominance there.
Many political analysts fear a newly elected NCP, freshly legitimised by the
polls, may clamp down after the results.
The opposition groups that chose to boycott the elections say they will hold
peaceful protests after the polls, but a senior member of Bashir's ruling
National Congress Party (NCP) said that was not wise.
"At some time this right (to demonstrate) has to be granted fully to the
people," said Ghazi Salaheddin. "Not these days -- the possibility of
flare-up, clashes between demonstrators has to be borne in mind," he added.
Not all Sudanese shared his optimism.
'A BIG FARCE'
Tamam -- an alliance of more than 100 Sudanese monitoring groups -- said the
vote was a farce.
"The process is a big farce -- it's fraudulent," said al- Baqer Alaziz, a
member of Tamam.
National parliamentary elections for 17 seats had to be delayed because of
ballot errors or mix-ups at polling stations.
Sudanese monitors in the southern capital Juba also found fault with Kiir's
dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).
"(There is) a troubling trend in Juba of observers being obstructed from
carrying out their right to observe the electoral process," the monitors
said in a statement.
International observers will likely issue their reports this week. Sudanese
opposition and civil society have accused the international community of
ignoring widespread irregularities.
"The technocrats of the international community ... have chosen to turn a
blind eye to all acts of corruption and the poor technical ability of the
elections commission," activist Hala al-Karib wrote on Friday on the Sudan
Tribune web site.
"It shows that Sudan lies at the bottom of the international community's
Many of Bashir's main rivals withdrew from the vote, saying the ruling party
had rigged the polls with a disputed census and irregularities in the
At one polling station in an affluent part of Khartoum, Bashir won 802 of
the 953 votes cast. The runner-up there got just 31 votes. The boycotters
got next to no votes, indicating that in this area, their call to supporters
to avoid the polls was effective.
Bashir had hoped a victory would legitimise his government in defiance of
the International Criminal Court arrest warrant, but the opposition boycott
may deny him that credibility. Bashir, who took power in a bloodless coup in
1989, rejects the ICC's allegations. (Editing by Giles Elgood)
C Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved
ANALYSIS-West will have to engage Sudan's Bashir after poll
Fri Apr 16, 2010 11:11am GMT
* Likely Bashir win seen after boycotts
* West will have engage with him ahead of referendum
By Andrew Heavens
KHARTOUM, April 16 (Reuters) - The likely election win of Sudan's president
will enrage many disgusted with his Darfur record, but the West will have to
find ways to engage with him in the build-up to an even more dangerous vote.
Sudan is less than eight months away from a referendum giving the people of
its south the choice whether to split off as an independent country,
guaranteed under a 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of north-south
Most analysts agree embittered southerners want to leave.
Sudan president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, almost certain to win the vote after
most of his rivals boycotted the ballot accusing him of fraud, wants the
oil-producing region to stay.
The next months of internationally backed talks will decide whether Sudan
ends up with a peaceful separation or a botched referendum and another
confrontation that could dwarf Darfur.
"These elections could be as bad as Afghanistan but with such a tight
timetable before the referendum I doubt anyone will insist on a rerun," said
one international source.
Many activists have already begun calling on Western powers to distance
themselves from the elections, writing them off as a rigged campaign
designed to vindicate a coup leader wanted by the International Criminal
Court to face charges over war crimes allegedly committed in Darfur.
"The United States will have to play the leader (in saying) that this is not
a legitimate election," said Mark Lotwis, acting head of campaign group Save
Up to now, Washington has echoed some of the concerns about the polls, but
shown no sign of turning its back on Bashir and his dominant northern
National Congress Party (NCP).
U.S. Sudan envoy Scott Gration flew to Khartoum for exhaustive rounds of
mediation when the boycotts began.
"We look at this election as part of an extremely important strategic
process. The Carter Centre is working very closely with the United States
government, with Scott Gration," former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told
Reuters in an interview as he led a team of observers in Khartoum last week.
"There are some groups that want the election to succeed and I represent one
of those groups."
Carter promised his observers' preliminary report on the poll, due out on
Saturday, would still be "very frank".
There is a lot of work for international mediators to do in the months
before the referendum, as long as they stay engaged.
Bashir has promised to accept the south's decision if it chooses to secede.
But that does not mean there is a done deal.
His government has shown an often astounding ability to release conflicting
signals, frustrating any search for a fixed policy.
On Tuesday this week, the conciliatory face of the NCP, presidential advisor
Ghazi Salaheddin, told foreign journalists his party was prepared to offer
government positions to opposition groups after the elections. Tensions
A day later, in a classic good cop/bad cop routine, the confrontational face
of the NCP, presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie, called in the same
reporters to accuse the same opposition groups of plotting a "popular
revolution" against the government. Tensions spiked.
There are also many agreements to be made before the referendum can take
place, any of which could be used to delay the vote, an unacceptable outcome
for the south.
Sticking points include the position of the north-south border, the sharing
out of oil reserves and Nile river water, the apportioning of external debts
and the membership of a commission to organise the plebiscite.
Bashir will hold up his election win as a vindication of his rule and a
rebuke to the International Criminal Court, particularly if he can show
support in the three Darfur states.
For many, the elections are a matter of real regret. "The immediate costs
are opportunities lost -- for a renewed internal process, for using the
elections to assist moving Darfur out of conflict, for building trust," said
Stephen Morrison from Washington's Center for Strategic and International
Bashir's critics will have to take comfort in the fact that the election win
actually gives him no extra legal immunity against the ICC case.
There has also been some opening up of civil liberties in the build-up to
the voting -- newspaper censorship was lifted, opposition groups made
critical statements on television and activists were given some limited
freedom on the streets.
"We need to get through this election and ... see whether this regime cracks
down again," said Save Darfur's Lotwis. (Editing by Giles Elgood)
C Thomson Reuters 2010 All rights reserved
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