Monday, April 19, 2010

Elections in Sudan don't live up to Western standards

The United States and other Western nations didn't wait until the votes were completely counted in Sudan to begin questioning the validity of the results of the first multiparty election in the East African nation in 24 years. The U.S. State Department said Monday that the weekend balloting was "not a free and fair election," given wide reports of alleged fraud and boycotts by various groups. "It did not, broadly speaking, meet international standards," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in Washington, according to the Reuters international news service. Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, and his National Congress Party are expected to easily win re-election and continue to dominate politics, at least in the northern portion of the insurgency-torn oil-producing nation still under the control of the government in Khartoum. But given that the election occurred at all, even flawed, was seen as a positive development by the West. The balloting fulfilled another portion of the 2005 peace deal that interrupted a 22-year civil war between Sudan's Muslim-dominated north and Christian and Animist groups in the south led by the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. The third and, perhaps, most important condition of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is a vote on whether to permanently separate the northern and southern regions of Sudan by 2011, Reuters said. "I think we recognize that the election is a very important step" in carrying out the 2005 peace deal, Crowley said. "The United States will continue to work with the government in the north, the government in the south, as we move forward with ... the vitally important referenda that'll happen in January of next year." Initial polls indicate Bashir's party would receive as much as 90 percent of the vote in northern Sudan, Reuters said. In a separate statement, delegations from the United States, Britain and Norway -- guarantors of the peace deal, said the election suffered from poor preparation and other irregularities and called on the Khartoum government to fix these problems before the next round of voting. "We note initial assessments of the electoral process from independent observers, including the judgment that the elections failed to meet international standards," the three countries said in a statement. "We are reassured that voting passed reasonably peacefully, reportedly with significant participation, but share their serious concerns about weak logistical and technical preparations and reported irregularities in many parts of Sudan. Observers from the European Union and the Carter Center also said the elections did not meet international standards. Bashir still faces genocide charges filed last year by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over hundreds of thousands of killings in the Darfur region of eastern Sudan, where millions were displaced by conflict between the Khartoum government and ethnic rebel groups that was not related to the 22-year war between north and south.

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