Sudan says elections will go ahead despite boycott
KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan's first multiparty elections in more than two decades will go ahead despite the withdrawal of several opposition parties alleging campaign irregularities, the election commission said Saturday.
The local, parliamentary and presidential polls will be carried out over three days beginning Sunday.
The vote is a crucial step in Sudan's 2005 north-south peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war and paves the way for a referendum that will allow southerners to decide whether to secede from the Muslim-dominated north.
Some 2 million people died during the war. It is separate from the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003 and has left 300,000 people dead. No comprehensive peace deal has been reached for Darfur but the elections are still going ahead in the western region.
"I call upon all the voters ... to make every effort to come out and vote," Abel Alier, chairman of the election commission, told a news conference.
"We are committed to free and fair polling," he said. "We want to ensure that what we do will demonstrate to the voter and to the world at large that the polling will be transparent as part of our commitment to make it free and fair."
Sudanese opposition parties accuse the ruling National Congress Party of using state resources, limiting their access to media and controlling the election commission. Several of the biggest opposition parties have withdrawn from the race.
The election commission said 73 out of 83 registered political parties are taking part in the balloting. There are more than 14,000 candidates altogether in the local and national races. More than 16 million people are eligible to vote.
The commission said there would be more than 800 observers from outside Sudan, including from the Carter Center and the European Union.
The commission's deputy chairman, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, cautioned that people should bear in mind "there is no perfect election."
"We will not claim to be an exception to this rule," he said. "However, if any small mistake or error occurs it will not be intentional."
Abdullah said the aim was for the elections to be the beginning of a long-term process of democratization.