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Sudan Votes Marred By Delays And Confusion
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Apr 12, 2010 - 6:04:12 AM

8:31am UK, Monday April 12, 2010

Julia Reid, Sky News Online

Sudanese voters have gone to the polls in the first multi-party elections in two decades, but the landmark elections have been marred by delays and confusion.


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Voter raises inked finger

A Sudanese voter shows his inked finger after casting his ballot

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Organisers claimed that early logistical problems were overcome, but opposition parties listed more than 100 alleged violations and errors.

In the White Nile state, they claimed elections had not begun at all by late afternoon on day one of voting.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement asked for voting to be extended by seven days in south Sudan because so many voters were unable to find their names on voter rolls.

The country's president Omar al Bashir is expected to achieve a comfortable victory after his key challengers pulled out of the election.

He raised his finger to show the voting ink and shouted "Allahu Akbar", after casting his ballot at a school in central Khartoum on Sunday.

Yasser Arman, a northern Muslim representing the SPLM, and the former prime minister Sadiq al Mahdi of the Umma Party both withdrew from the race before polling day, accusing Mr Al Bashir of fraud.

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President al Bashir

President al Bashir votes in Khartoum

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They said free and fair conditions for the elections were not in place, particularly in the western region of Darfur which has been under a state of emergency since civil war broke out seven years ago.

Darfur rebel movements, who control parts of the vast region, firmly rejected the elections but have not stated any intentions to derail the process.

As well as the presidential election, the 16 million registered voters will be asked to choose their legislative and local representatives, and southern Sudanese voters will select a leader of the semi-autonomous government of south Sudan.

In the southern capital of Juba, doors opened on time but minor logistical problems forced southern leader Salva Kiir to delay casting his ballot.

Mr Kiir told reporters he hoped the elections would lead to the "formation of a democratic process in south Sudan".

The leader of the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement is running against former foreign minister Lam Akol.

Sixteen planes, 16 helicopters and more than 200 vehicles have been mobilised in the past two weeks to transport ballot boxes around the country.

More than 100,000 police officers will be on duty over the election period, which will last for three days.

Mr Al Bashir has ruled Africa's largest country since 1989 when he came to power in a military coup backed by Islamists.

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