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Latest News Last Updated: Jan 22, 2010 - 8:09:32 AM

SPLM candidate confident of beating Beshir in Sudan poll

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SPLM candidate confident of beating Beshir in Sudan poll

KHARTOUM The candidate of Sudan's southern former rebel movement said on Thursday that he was confident of defeating veteran incumbent Omar el-Beshir in a presidential election expected in April.

Yasser Arman said he expected to build on the southern support base of his Sudan People's Liberation Movement by campaigning on behalf of all the marginalised groups of Sudan's far-flung regions.

Arman, who although SPLM deputy leader is himself a northerner, added that he even expected to pick up votes in the capital and its environs as all Sudanese wanted change after 21 years of Beshir's rule.

"The marginalised people will make the difference. They have been excluded politically, economically and culturally and we are going to restructure the state in a way that can bring them from the periphery to the centre," said Arman, who is the leading challenger so far to declare his candidacy.

"I have more chances because I start with four million voters in the south and I am competing in other areas, unlike other candidates.

"I have a solid base in the south and from this solid base the SPLM has a wider support in the north, in the west, in the east, in the centre, and I believe that our programme, our vision, is the only game in town."

Arman said that only he could deliver on the changes promised under a 2005 peace deal between his movement and Beshir's government, including April's elections and a referendum on independence for the south promised for 2011.

"President Beshir rules Sudan for 20 years and the Sudanese are looking for changes, for freedoms, for reconciliation, for permanent peace, for a new Sudan on a new basis, for a referendum in time. It is only the SPLM that can guarantee those results," he said.

Arman said that even Sudanese in the country's northern heartland had a major interest in voting for a candidate who would push for an end to the seven-year-old conflict in the western region of Darfur and the consolidation of democracy after the country's first multi-party elections since 1986.

"They need democracy -- and we are for democratization -- they need a peaceful settlement in Darfur -- and our record is straightforward in Darfur -- and they need food, they need the institutions of the state to be neutral and that cannot be done by (Beshir's) National Congress," he said.

Arman, a secular Muslim, was born in Gezira, Sudan's agricultural heartland along the Nile. He studied law in the 1980s at Cairo University in Khartoum, where he was an active member of the communist movement.

A number of northern opposition groups made common cause with the rebel SPLM during the devastating 1983-2005 civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian or animist south.

SPLM leader Salva Kiir is standing for election to the presidency of the autonomous region in south Sudan in a simultaneous vote that will take place alongside the election to the national presidency.

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