- Darfur - elections - European Union - Omar al-Bashir - Sudan
Candidates wrap up campaigning before parliamentary vote
Sudanese political parties addressed supporters Friday on the last day of campaigning before the country's first multi-party elections in 24 years. But several opposition parties have announced they will boycott the polls over alleged rigging.
AFP - Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir and his remaining challengers addressed supporters on Friday on the last day of campaigning for elections that have been overshadowed by opposition boycotts.
Beshir wrapped up his appeal for votes in Sudan's first multi-party election since before he seized power in a 1989 coup with a speech in the northern town of Dalgo.
"We will build roads to El-Geneina (in the war-torn western region of Darfur). We have built a road that reaches the border of Ethiopia (in the east)," said Beshir, who has waged bitter wars in Sudan's regions during his two decades in power.
"We are not focused on just one region, we are working for balanced development," said the president who faces a warrant from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the seven-year-old conflict with ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.
"People ask: 'Why are you launching all these projects today?' We say they are solid projects. It is not publicity," Beshir said in the speech broadcast by private TV channels.
Beshir's resources have allowed him to stage rallies in all corners of the country, eclipsing the efforts of his challengers, two of whom have withdrawn from the race amid accusations that he has diverted state funds to his campaign.
The southern former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement said it was also withdrawing from simultaneous parliamentary and state elections in all northern states except the disputed Blue Nile and south Kordofan districts, after its candidate, Yasser Arman, pulled out of the presidential race.
Arman, who has characterised the elections as nothing more than a one-man show for Beshir, said "these elections are not about the crises Sudan is facing. Things will be worse after the elections."
Former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi, who won Sudan's last multi-party election in 1986, has also withdrawn, leaving Hatim al-Sir, of the other main historical northern faction -- the Democratic Unionist Party -- as Beshir's sole remaining challenger of any weight.
Sir was to meet his supporters in Nile State in the north later on Friday.
Former US President Jimmy Carter said he expected the elections to go ahead without major hurdles despite the boycotts.
"We see no reasons for any concern except on a few isolated stations way out," said the former US leader, whose Carter Centre is monitoring the elections.
Voting materials "may get there a bit late but they will have three days at least in which to vote," he told reporters in Khartoum.
Sudanese security forces deployed in strength ahead of Sunday's first day of polling, as did international peacekeepers deployed in both Darfur and the south.
More than 100,000 police officers are to be on duty over the election period, a security official said, as embassies in Khartoum advised nationals to adopt "precautionary measures," like stocking up on food and fuel.
The 66-year-old Beshir is counting on the landmark elections to reassert his authority after the ICC arrest warrant against him, the first ever against a sitting head of state.
His National Congress controls 52 percent of the 450 seats in the outgoing National Assembly under a power-sharing agreement with the southern former rebels and the northern opposition.
Beshir on Thursday promised an exemplary election.
"The elections will be fair and free and clean and exemplary," he told a large gathering at a massive hydroelectric plant in northern Sudan.
But the US envoy to the United Nations warned that "disturbing" trends could mar the outcome of the vote.
"Unfortunately the trends on the ground are very disturbing," Susan Rice told reporters.
She said a decision by the European Union to withdraw observers from Darfur underscored "how insecure and problematic the electoral process is in that portion of the country and elsewhere."
Some 2.7 million people have fled their homes in Darfur since ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in 2003.
Around 300,000 people have died, according to the United Nations. The Sudanese government says 10,000 people have been killed.