Internet video stokes Sudan poll fraud fears
By Opheera McDoom
Tuesday, April 20, 2010; 11:34 AM
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A video appearing to show elections officials stuffing ballot boxes in Sudan has been posted on the Internet and the opposition said on Tuesday it proved their case that the ruling party had rigged the polls.
The National Elections Commission dismissed the video as a fake and said it had received no complaints.
Official results have been delayed but so far indicate a landslide victory for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his party's candidates by massive margins in the national elections which were supposed to transform the oil producer emerging from decades of civil war into a democracy.
The video, entitled "Sudan's elections debacle in the Red Sea state" appears to show elections officials, in regulation orange vests and traditional eastern Sudanese clothes, stuffing ballots into boxes locked with distinctive orange seals.
Red Sea state is in Sudan's under-developed east, home to the country's only port and oil export pipeline.
There are no party agents or observers shown in the room. Parties in the east of Africa's largest country have said their representatives were expelled from monitoring during and after the voting.
The National Elections Commission said it would not investigate the video.
"We will not do any investigation because we have not got a complaint. We will not investigate anything that appears on the internet," NEC member al-Hadi Mohamed Ahmed told reporters.
Much of the opposition had boycotted the polls, citing widespread fraud before the voting even began. Those participating rejected the polls after the first day of counting when it became apparent they had won next to nothing and Bashir's National Congress Party had won by massive margins.
They said the NCP, which has ruled for 21 years after taking power in a bloodless coup, used state resources to fiddle with ballot boxes over the five-day voting period, accusations the NCP ridiculed.
"This video is proving everything we said that the elections are rigged and they rigged the boxes," said opposition Communist Party official Siddig Youssef.
The parties which participated in the polls said people who were sure they had voted could not find their votes in the polling stations during the counting.
Ahmed Haroun, who was running for Khartoum's state assembly, said he had his brother had voted in one center together. But when the counting was done, there was only one vote and it was spoiled as both his symbol and that of the ruling party were ticked. So he got no votes.
"Forget my brother and the 400-member team working with me in the area - that should have been my vote," he told Reuters.
"And I definitely did not tick the tree (the NCP's symbol)," he added.
His story is similar to those of opposition candidates across Sudan who say that if they believed the low number of votes they got, their families could not have voted for them.
Armed police refused to allow Sudanese party agents to sleep near the ballot boxes overnight and on at least two confirmed occasions, NEC officials were caught at night inside the locked rooms with the ballot boxes and ballots. They all denied fraud, saying they were reviewing the ballots.
The opposition gave examples of a few centers they were able to guard overnight using weapons. There they had much more votes than the NCP, but they were outweighed by other unguarded centers in the same constituency which recorded hundreds of NCP votes, ultimately ensuring they lost.
In some polling stations, party agents found there were more ballots in the boxes than those who voted. In other centers, elections officials would not give them the numbers of voters to enable a comparison, observers said.
But the video was final proof, the opposition said.
Activists who had forwarded the YouTube video link to Reuters said they believed it was genuine and proved the accusations of fraud.
European Union and Carter Center observers had said the elections failed to meet international standards, citing the complexity of the presidential, legislative and gubernatorial votes, logistical problems, irregularities and the boycotts.
(Editing by Giles Elgood)