Voting extension to delay Sudan's final poll results

Khartoum- Sudan (PANA) -- After voting was extended by two days in Sudan's landma rk election Monday evening, it is now expected that poll results will be delayed for an unknown period, PANA reported Tuesday The National Electoral Commission (NEC) decided to extend voting by two more day s Monday evening, after delays were reported in remote areas in the south and Darfur province.
According to both international and domestic observers, the decision means tally ing and announcement of the results can only start on Friday at the earliest, in line with the election regulations that prov ide for counting to start when voting ends.
The extension of the polling time came as the African Union observers said low t urnout was likely to negatively affect the outcome.
AU spokesperson Janice Strachay told PANA in Jebel Aulia province, neighbouring Khartoum state, that low turnout and slow voting, among others, were compromising a peaceful election.
â?In all stations I have visited in Khartoum, the turnout has been low and the voting is also slow.
There is rising concern that most people might not vote even after the extension of the voting period,â? said Str achay.
The Sudanese are voting in the first elections in 25 years, with attention rivet ed on incumbent President Omar el-Bashirâ?s National Congress Party (NCP), Southern Sudan Peopleâ?s Liberation Movement (SPLM), whic h is making a debut in elective politics, and the Social Congress Party (SCP), whose candidate Fatma Mahmoud is the first woman to run for the presidency in the conservative Muslim Khartoum-based government.
The other major party, Umma, has pulled out after alleging massive pre-voting ir regularities.
Despite the many hiccups, which former US President Jimmy Carter termed as expec ted, polling has largely been peaceful despite initial fears of violence erupting in the south and troubled Darfur province in the west .
Carter told reporters in Juba, â?Election monitors had received varying reports of problems around the countryâ?s capital.
Most of the problems I have witnessed are logistical and have been rectified, at least within the cap ital Khartoum.
â? The AU said at the start of the third day of voting on Tuesday, which had initia lly been scheduled to be the last day of the exercise, that less that than half of over 16 million registered voters had cast their ballots.
Complaints of missing names in and around Khartoum were becoming common, with pe rsistent complaints of opposition supporters being disenfranchised by missing names in the voter registers.
SCP presidential candidate Fatma Mahmoudâ?s agents were livid that more than fo ur hundred names in Bahri polling station in North Khartoum had been removed from the register.
Her brother, who is also her agent, Mr Yassin Abdalla , accused the president of the station of conniving with the government to weaken Mahmoudâ?s support base in her stronghold.
â?There is no voting here.
The president of the polling station did not report to work and has switched off his cell phone,â? Abdalla lamented.
His complaints were corroborated by multiple poll officials who said they had not been in conta ct with their boss.
Similar irregularities were reported in Jebel Aulia province, seventy kilometres southeast of the capital.
In Kakakla (Jebel Aulia), National Unionist Party national assembly candidate, M r Mohammed Ali Hijak, told PANA that illegal voters, some as young as 14 years old, had been allowed to vote, while in some cases unauthenticated hous ing certificates and electricity bills had been used to vote.
In one of the stations, officials said over ninety per cent of the more than one thousand four hundred registered voters had used unauthenticated documents to cast their votes.
â?The identification exercise is flawed.
There are too many irregularities on t he entire electoral process,â? said Hijak.
The complaints are among the many tha t have been streaming in from far flung regions such as Darfur in the west and Sou thern Sudan, where on the third day polling had not commenced for lack of election materials.
In Darfur, officials of non-governmental organizations reported a low turnout in areas where the election materials had been received.
It was the same case in the Southern Sudan, where National Electoral Commission spokesman Salah Habib conceded the electoral body had come up against monumental logistical problems, necessitating extension of the voting period.
A week to the polls, the highly anticipated exercise was rocked by pullouts by 1 3 of the 20 political parties that had sponsored candidates for presidential, na t ional and regional assemblies.
However, Commission chairman Justice Abel Alier adjudged the withdrawal as illeg al and retained the candidates and party symbols on the ballot papers.
Some of the parties that had pulled out have assigned agents to polling stations to monitor the voting.

13 april 2010 09:10:00

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