Sunday, April 11, 2010

Voters in divided Sudan go to polls despite continuing controversy

Word from Sudan is that voters are jamming polling places in the country's first multiparty election in 24 years in the face of an unsettled political situation, calls for boycotts and allegations of fraud. The landmark election implements another requirement of a 2005 agreement that ended, at least temporarily, a decades-long civil war but left the oil-rich country divided between the government-controlled Muslim north and the Christian- and Animist-controlled south. The election is a prelude to the unification vote planned for 2011, according to Cable News Network (CNN). Voting continues through Tuesday. Reports of irregularities poured in from all over the country, despite the presence of 750 international monitors, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and 18,000 Sudanese monitors, CNN said. But some problems were expected "in a country that hasn't had an election in 23 years or so," Carter said. "Most of the problems I saw this morning were logistical in nature and have already been corrected, at least around Khartoum," he said. But he said some problems were expected "in a country that hasn't had an election in 23 years or so." Many reports of irregularities were coming from the south, the stronghold of the opposition Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement. In fact, complaints about fraud by the ruling National Congress Party caused the withdrawal of its candidate from the presidential race against President Omar al-Bashir, who took power in a 1989 military coup and implemented Islamic law, CNN said. In Juba, Southern Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, called the balloting a significant milestone for the country and said he had voted for the first time in his life. SPLM spokesman Yein Matthew told CNN that it was documenting incidents in the region and would present a list of them on Monday. "There are so many, and we are still tracking them down," Matthew said. More than 2 million people died in the civil war, not including the conflict in the western Sudan region of Darfur. That conflict, which received broad international media coverage, was between the government militias and ethnic rebels and resulted in genocide charges being filed against al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, CNN said. Al-Bashir denies the charges.

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