Sudanese call for voting extension after poll delays

Observers on Monday urged Sudan to extend voting in its first open elections in 24 years after thousands of ballots were cast incorrectly and polling faced serious delays in many areas of Africa’s largest country.

The complex presidential, legislative and gubernatorial elections, which began on Sunday and were scheduled to last three days, had been hoped to transform Sudan from a nation emerging from decades of civil war to a democratic state.

But after a wave of opposition boycotts the vote now looks likely to confirm the 21-year rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — the only sitting head of state wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, which alleges he was behind mass murder and rape in Darfur.

Sudanese election observers said polling stations in parts of the north and much of the south had experienced serious delays on Sunday and in some areas voting had not begun because ballot papers had not arrived.

“They may well really need to extend the period for these places where the materials haven’t arrived,” said al-Baqer Alafif, head of one of the largest Sudanese observer teams.

“In the south because the materials haven’t arrived in many centres, some haven’t even started voting yet,” he added. He welcomed a call by the main south Sudan party for extended voting as many in the semi-autonomous south wasted hours searching for the correct voting stations.

“We want four on top of the three days … in southern Sudan,” said Samson Kwaje, campaign head of south Sudan’s incumbent President Salva Kiir, who is also expected to be re-elected.

The elections and a plebiscite on independence for south Sudan next year are key parts of a 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade-long civil war between Sudan’s north and south.



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