April 12th, 2010
07:06 PM ET

Voting extended in Sudan, official says

Voting in Sudan's first multi-party elections in 24 years has been extended by two days, a U.N. official said Monday.

The main political party in South Sudan, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, had asked for a four-day delay amid reports of confusion at southern polling places.

At several southern polling stations, voters could not find their names on the registry. And many voters in the south couldn't understand the complicated 12 levels of voting in the forms and the lack of presidential pictures to identify candidates.

An SPLM statement Monday said the group's deputy secretary-general, Anne Itto, witnessed irregularities including missing ballot papers and boxes, a lack of police presence, polling stations opening late or not at all, and other problems in her home constituency of Pageri in Eastern Equatoria state of southern Sudan.

Itto had to visit several polling stations before finding her name on the registry, the statement said. Itto also noted a lack of ballot papers in Pageri constituency, saying in the statement that National Election Commission figures showed the constituency had more than 21,000 registered voters, but only 16,000 ballot papers were delivered.

At the same time, Itto observed that more women were lining up to vote than men, and the overall atmosphere "was generally festive and calm as this was the first time nearly all of these residents had voted in their lives," the SPLM statement said.

The vote has been largely free of major incident in northern Sudan.

A north-south civil war that started in 1983 killed roughly 2 million people in Sudan and displaced many others. A 2005 peace agreement that ended the war called for the election that is now underway, though the vote has been dogged by several parties boycotting or limiting their participation. The peace deal also called for a 2011 referendum in the south on whether to succeed from the rest of Sudan and become an independent nation.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement recently withdrew its presidential candidate from the race against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and opposition parties called for a boycott of this week's vote amid accusations of fraud against the ruling National Congress Party. Al-Bashir has denied the allegations. Up to 750 international and 18,000 domestic observers are assessing the election.

One of them is former former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who said Sunday that monitors had received "varying reports" of problems at polling stations around the country's capital.

European Union monitors on the ground say that it is too early to tell whether the vote will be free and fair.

"This is their first experience of democracy," said Zach Vertin of the International Crisis Group. "People are excited to learn about the process and particularly in the South to vote for many of their candidates here."

- From CNN's  David McKenzie


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  1. Higher standards

    If you'll recall the American Civil War, the Southern states weren't Successionists and they didn't succeed. They failed to secede.

    April 13, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |