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Chaos, ‘mistakes’ lead to two-day polling extension

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-04-12

Voting in Sudan’s three-day elections, which began April 11, has been extended a further two days, the country’s election commission announced Monday, following a chaotic start to an extremely complicated election.

AFP - Sudan's national election commission said on Monday it was extending voting for two days after logistical problems marred the beginning of the country's first competitive elections in 24 years.
   
"The number of voting days has been extended by two further days in all of Sudan" from three days to five, NEC spokesman Salah Habib told AFP.
   
Earlier top election monitor Jimmy Carter said in the south Sudan capital Juba there was "not much doubt" polling would be extended after a chaotic start on Sunday prompted cries of foul play and forced officials to admit "mistakes."
   
"There were some serious problems with the election process in some voting places where lists have been very difficult to find your names, where voters have difficulty finding their names," Carter told reporters.
   
"In some cases, wrong ballots were sent to other places in southern Sudan," the former US president said after visiting about 20 polling stations and meeting south Sudan leader Salva Kiir.
   

Sudanese nationwide are voting for president as well for legislative and local representatives in the African country's first multi-party elections since 1986.
   
Southerners are also voting for the leader of the semi-autonomous government of south Sudan.
   
Monday's second day of polling appeared to proceed generally smoothly.
   
Queues -- one for men, one for women -- formed in stifling heat at voting stations in central Khartoum even before polling opened.
   
On Sunday both the queues and tempers were short as electoral officials battled with logistical problems, inadequate or incorrect voting material and irate voters who could not find their names on the lists.
   
Officials said much of Sudan was calm on day two, although some problems were reported in a few areas.
   
An AFP correspondent said some outlying districts of Juba were still awaiting voting material on Monday, despite assurances they were on the way.
   
Party officials, meanwhile, said that while voting had finally begun in some villages in the eastern area of Kassala, the locations of some polling stations were changed without notice.
   
Several sources said tension was mounting in the state of Bahr al-Ghazal in the south where an independent candidate's popularity appeared to threaten the seat of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) candidate.
   
Police on Monday said there had been no major incidents linked to the poll, however.
   
Complaints linked to voting procedures on Sunday compounded question marks about the credibility of an election from which key candidates had already withdrawn ahead of polling day citing fraud.
   
The original three days of polling had always threatened to be difficult with voters, may of them illiterate, having to contend with simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, state and southern regional elections.
   
The SPLM, the southern former rebels, described the first day as "wasted," and had demanded polling be extended to seven days.
   
Samson Kwaje, campaign manager for SPLM leader Kiir, said irregularities included polling stations opening late, wrong ballot boxes in the wrong places and ballot boxes going missing.
   
The NEC on Sunday acknowledged there had been "mistakes" in distributing ballot papers in some areas.
   
Asked on Monday whether the election results would be legitimate, Carter replied: "It depends on whether or not the mistakes are corrected."
   
Opposition parties accuse the National Congress Party of veteran President Omar al-Beshir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, of plotting to fake an election victory.
   
The SPLM had already pulled out its national presidential candidate Yasser Arman, while former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of the northern opposition Umma party also withdrew.
   
Former rebel leader Kiir is standing for election as president of the autonomous government in south Sudan that will lead the region to a promised referendum on independence next January.
   
The two votes are central planks of a 2005 peace deal between the SPLM and Beshir's government that ended two decades of civil war between the mainly Christian and animist south, and the mainly Muslim north.
   
Beshir in March last year became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court when it issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

Date created : 2010-04-12

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