Sudanese polls begin with women voter turnout very high

Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- Voting in Sudan's first polls in 25 years and the six th since independence in 1952 kicked off peacefully here Sunday despite initial fears of potential voter apathy after 13 parties pulled out, alleging massive irregularities.
In polling stations toured in the expansive Omdurman region in the capital, Khartoum, voters queued patiently in the sweltering desert heat that had soared to 42 degrees Celsius by mid-morning to elect a president of the republic, members of the national legislative assembly, 25 regional governors and members of the regional legislative assembly.
Among the early voters was President Hassan Omar el-Bashir, who is widely expected to hold onto his post despite boycotts by opposition candidates.
There was no report of violence or poll fraud in the voting exercise, which officials in centres visited said kicked off on time - 8am local time - save for isolated cases of delays caused by late arrival of officials and party agents.
In the capital, Khartoum, election material arrived on time.
However, the presence of voters who donned military and police uniforms elicited the interest of international poll observers who questioned whether they were acting within regulations to wear uniforms during voting.
Members of the disciplined forces were not armed, instead they waited patiently in the queues for their turn to cast their votes.
Commenting on the turnout, the leader of an international observation team, who requested anonymity, said the participation of women in the poll had exceeded expectations.
In most of the polling station visited, she observed, the number of women was more than three time that of men.
According to election regulation, geographical constituencies make up 60 per cent of the electoral areas, while the remaining 40 per cent consists of proportionate representation in which women account for 25 per cent.
This is the first time in the country's history that women are seeking electoral positions in large numbers in a predominantly patriarchal society, in which women traditionally play second fiddle in decision making.
Interviewed, the president of Abu Kadok polling centre, Mr.
Getir Ahmed, attributed the low male voter turnout to the failure by the government to declare the three-day election period, the ends on Tuesday, a national holiday.
"We expect the number of male voters to surge in the late hours of the day aft er they are done with their daily chores.
They are the bread winners and therefore had to report to work first before coming to vote," Ahmed said.
Polling stations will open daily between 8am and 6pm for the three days of voting.
The sheer number of candidates at all levels is proving cumbersome to voters, especially the semi-illiterate ones who have to comb through a list of 40 candidates each for regional and national assemblies, in addition to 20 regional governors.
Names of candidates for regional and national assemblies are displayed on A-3 size papers, twice the size of an ordinary foolscap.
The returning officer (president) at Nosuba Primary School in Central Omdurman, Mr Mohammed Ahmed, said the national elections body had succeeded in arousing the interest of women through the civic education material in which women feature prominently.

11 april 2010 11:33:00

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