Carter Centre welcomes Sudan’s election campaign, urges transparency

Dar es Salaam- Tanzania (PANA) -- While much has been achieved in organising the 2010 elections in Sudan, the country’s first competitive elections since 1986, the process remains at risk on multiple fronts, including the ability of candidates to campaign freely and the impact of delayed logistical preparations by the National Elections Commission (NEC), the Carter Centre said Thursday.
“The overall electoral environment in Sudan continues to suffer, though from a legacy of years of repression,” it said in a statement, made available to PANA here.
Sudan’s election campaigning has been ongoing across the country since 13 February, with some 16,000 candidates contesting 1,841 parliamentary and executive seats.
“Although there have been incidents of violence, the campaign so far has been mostly peaceful,” observed the Carter Centre, which conducts election observation missions in accordance with the Declaration of Principles of International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005.
It pointed out that improvement of the freedom of candidates to campaign and disseminate their messages through the state media was necessary.
“Further, the ability of candidates and supporters to express their views freely is limited by existing laws that contravene Sudan’s constitutional protections.
Campaigning has been constrained due to an environment of insecurity in many parts of the country, including Darfur and Eastern Sudan,” the Carter Centre observed.
Expressing fear that this insecurity may inhibit the success of the electoral process, the centre urged further efforts to improve security for the elections period and beyond.
“The centre strongly recommends that NEC and other Sudanese authorities take steps to ensure that the campaign period is both peaceful and fair to all candidates and to quickly address any violations that arise,” the statement said, warning that failure to do so would erode confidence in the election process and put its success at risk.
It called on all members of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan to assist in providing resources needed for the election, while remaining neutral in the campaign.
Given the short timeline before the elections, the NEC should assess the status of current electoral preparations while accelerating final preparations for polling and, critically, escalating voter education in order to deliver the elections to the standard required by Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
Logistical preparations are straining the limited capacity of the NEC.
With a series of delays and changes in polling procedures, a minor delay in polling for operational purposes may be required.
The Carter Centre urged the NEC to make a decision as quickly as possible about any delay in the election date so that all stakeholders would have time to adjust their plans.
In deciding whether to adjust the electoral calendar for operational reasons, the political parties should respect the NEC’s authority as the administrating body of the election, the statement added.
The Carter Centre international election observation mission began activities in Sudan in February 2008 in response to a request from the leaders of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan and concluded a comprehensive memorandum of understanding with the Government of Sudan and the NEC.
The deal guaranteed a full and unrestricted programme of international electoral observation, including freedom of access throughout the country and to all stages of the electoral process.

18 march 2010 15:25:00

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