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Polls close after historic, and chaotic, Sudan vote

4 min

Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years came to a close Thursday after an eventful five days of voting marked by claims of irregularities and rigging.


REUTERS - A senior member of Sudan's ruling party on Thursday accused opposition groups of plotting to reject election results and sow chaos in order to overthrow the government through a "popular revolution". 

The accusation from presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie, one of the most powerful men in Sudan, stoked tensions as the oil-producing state ended a five-day voting period in presidential and legislative polls.

One party named as a potential trouble maker dismissed Nafie's statement as "completely false" while others were not immediately available for comment.

Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years mark a key test of stability for a country of 42 million people emerging from decades of north-south civil war and preparing for a 2011 referendum on southern independence.

Many of Sudan's conflicts stem from resentment of the north's domination over peripheral areas, including western Darfur and the non-Muslim, non-Arab south, the site of most of Sudan's proven oil reserves.

After years of fighting, a peace agreement in 2005 gave more autonomy to southern rebels and promised the elections and referendum.

Political turbulence mounted after a number of parties announced they were boycotting large parts of the voting, accusing incumbent president Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of vote rigging.

"(The opposition groups) are not going to recognise the outcome of the elections and they are going to go to the streets and try to change the regime ... through conflict, riots," Nafie told reporters at a briefing.

He quoted from what he said were opposition statements promising to mount protests, reject the newly elected administration and replace it with a "government of national unity".

"If you have any explanation for this other than chaos and trying to change the regime through popular revolution ... I don't have any other explanation," he said. 

Risks of coming days

Nafie said he had heard similar threats from the opposition Umma party, the breakaway Umma Reform and Renewal faction and the northern sector of south's Sudan's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

He said he doubted the parties had the following to organise mass protests but said any attempt would be stopped.

Voting in the elections has been largely peaceful, despite widespread logistical problems in Africa's largest country.

Opposition and independent candidates have complained of harassment by the dominant parties in both the south and north.

The boycotts left little doubt Bashir would win the national presidential elections.

Facing an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for war crimes in Darfur, Bashir hopes a victory will legitimise his rule.

Nafie's message marked a change in tone from the message given a day earlier by senior NCP official Ghazi Salaheddin, which offered boycotting parties places in the next government.

Salaheddin said the NCP wanted to build consensus ahead of the southern referendum and other challenges.

Nafie, one of the party's more confrontational figures, put conditions on the offer, saying parties would have to share the NCP's principles to join it in power.

UMMA Reform and Renewal leader Mubarak al-Fadil dismissed the plot accusation, saying he had assured a government delegation that he had no plans to launch protests.

The SPLM's boycotting presidential candidate Yasir Arman earlier this week told Reuters he was considering calling peaceful protests after the results, which are due on Tuesday.

Nafie played down earlier reports south Sudan's army had killed nine people including at least five NCP officials during voting, saying some people had died in a private confrontation, but the killing had nothing to do with the elections.

"The coming days are really when things are going to potentially get heated," said Maggie Fick, an analyst from the U.S.-based Enough project.


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