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Latest News Last Updated: Jan 21, 2010 - 7:54:50 AM

Sudan extends deadline for election nominations

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Thu Jan 21, 2010 5:28am GMT

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has extended the deadline for nominations in the first multi-party vote in 24 years after candidates said they did not have enough time to prepare, election officials said on Wednesday.

Elections would go ahead as scheduled on April 11 when Africa's largest country, recovering from decades of war, will hold a poll already marred by accusations of fraud, vote-buying and intimidation during last year's voter registration.

"(The deadline for nominations is delayed) until the 27th January because we know that there are some who said the time is too short. But the elections will be on time," Abu Bakr Waziri from the National Elections Commission told Reuters.

The 10-day nomination period was announced just days before it began on January 12, and some prospective candidates were not given registration forms until much later, leaving little time to collect the signatures needed to be endorsed.

"They wanted 15,000 signatures (for a candidate) to be nominated and that from 18 states with a minimum of 200 in each state," said Abdel Aziz Khaled, a presidential candidate.

He said he had met the requirements but that after decades of north-south war it would be difficult for many independent, mid-level or new political parties to garner support in both the north and south within the original tight timeframe.

"They are making it difficult because (President Omar Hassan) al-Bashir doesn't want many candidates to run because this will divide the vote and affect him in the first round to not get 50 plus percent," Khaled said.

If no presidential candidate gets 51 percent, it will force a second round between the two leading candidates.

Khaled and others say they are determined to challenge Bashir despite widespread reports of fraud by his National Congress Party (NCP).

On Wednesday the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which signed a 2005 north-south peace deal and entered an uneasy coalition with the NCP, said vote buying and intimidation by the NCP had escalated.

The NCP was targeting millions of largely uneducated and poor living in slum camps surrounding the capital, it said.

"This will not be a way for a free and fair election," said SPLM spokeswoman Keji Roman. "They are offering money or even threatening them...this is what makes it illegal and immoral."

Representatives of slum dwellers, who have little access to information and no electricity or running water, said NCP officials were using threats and bribery and also telling people the SPLM was supporting the NCP so they should vote for Bashir.

NCP officials were not immediately available to comment but in the past have ridiculed allegations of fraud.

Sudan's civil war claimed 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes, destabilising much of east Africa.

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