Sudan vote smoother on second day after chaotic start

Voting was proceeding generally smoothly on the second day Monday of Sudan’s multi-party elections after a chaotic start which had prompted cries of foul and forced officials to admit “mistakes.”

Queues — one for men, one for women — formed in stifling heat at voting stations in central Khartoum Monday even before polling opened, as cars arrived bringing even more voters.

As the morning wore on, queues at numerous voting centres in Khartoum visited by AFP had swelled and voting was proceeding calmly.

On the first day of voting Sunday, queues as well as 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.

Thousands of residents of Khartoum left the capital ahead of the vote, fearing violence. Profile: Omar al-Beshir

Police on Monday said however there had been no major incidents linked to the first multi-party poll in 24 years in Africa’s largest country.

The avalanche of complaints linked to voting procedures compounded question marks about the credibility of an election from which key candidates had already withdrawn ahead of polling day citing fraud.

The three-day polling process had always threatened to be difficult with voters, may of them illiterate, having to contend with ballots for simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, state and southern regional elections.

But the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the southern former rebels, described the first day of polling as “wasted” due to a raft of procedural problems and demanded the vote be extended from three to seven days.

Samson Kwaje, campaign manager for SPLM leader Salva Kiir, said irregularities Sunday included polling stations opening late, wrong ballot boxes in the wrong places and ballot boxes going missing.

The NEC acknowledged there had been “mistakes” in distributing ballot papers in some areas but made no comment on the possibility of prolonging the election.

Problems continued however in areas of the vast country on Monday, with some outlying districts of the southern regional capital Juba still awaiting voting material.

“Incorrect ballot papers were delivered here yesterday. We are now waiting for the right ballot papers to arrive so we can get the voting going,” said police chief Philip Otto Aldo at a polling station in Juba-South. Related article: Darfuris say Sudan vote process ‘very complicated’

In some villages in the eastern area of Kassala, the vote finally began on Monday after a one-day delay but the location of some polling stations had been changed without notice, complained Mazub Abu Mussa, Democratic Unionist Party candidate for the post of regional governor.

The DUP is the only major opposition party not boycotting the election.

The SPLM had already pulled out its presidential candidate Yasser Arman, while former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of the northern opposition Umma party also withdrew.

The opposition parties accused 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, particularly after the contract for ballot papers went to a state-owned printer.

In March 2009, Beshir became the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. The court issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

In Juba, 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.

In the western region of Darfur, where civil war between the Khartoum government and ethnic minority rebels has been raging since 2003, international peacekeepers reported no immediate violence.


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