Voting begins in Sudan`s historic elections

Last Updated: Sunday, April 11, 2010 - 17:27

Khartoum: Three days of voting began Sunday in Sudan`s first competitive elections in nearly a quarter century despite repeated opposition calls to delay the vote.

In Khartoum, turnout was lighter than expected in the
first few hours of voting, aside from a few enthusiastic
supporters of President Omar al-Bashir.

The elections, which will run through Tuesday, are an
essential part of a 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south
war that killed 2 million people over 21 years. They are
designed to kick-start a democratic transformation in the
war-plagued nation and provide a democratically elected
government to prepare for a crucial southern referendum next
year.

But two major political parties, including the
southerners, decided to pull out fully or partially from the
race, saying the process lacks credibility and elections can`t
be held in the western Darfur region while under a state of
emergency.

They called for a delay of the vote to address their
concerns. The government refused.

More than 800 international observers descended on
Africa`s largest country to observe the fairness of the
contests, with the largest group from former US President
Jimmy Carter`s organisation. He toured a polling stations at
the start of the day.

"I think (opposition parties) want to see a peaceful
transition and peace in this country, so I don`t think there
is any party that is threatening at all any disturbance or
violence or intimidation of voters," he told reporters. "So we
do expect and hopeful and believe there will be a peaceful
election."

The opposition has made a series of complaints - that the
National Election Commission is biased to the government, the
ruling party has used state resources in the campaign, the
number of polling stations nationwide was cut in half from
20,000, making it harder for those in remote villages to cast
ballots.

"This is the first time that the party that carried out a
coup organises elections," said Sarah Nugdallah, the head of
the political bureau of the Umma party, a major northern
opposition group which is boycotting.

Some 16 million people will vote for over 14,000
candidates for everything from president to local councils.

Voting took place amid heavy security and police have
issued stern warnings that no disturbances will be tolerated
on election day. Though the day is not a holiday, many shops
in Khartoum were closed on Sunday.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, April 11, 2010 - 17:27

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