Sudan begins counting in polls marred by boycotts

Sudan began counting millions of ballots on Friday after five days of voting in the first open polls in 24 years, tainted by boycotts and accusations of fraud.

Despite decades of civil war and a heavily armed population the presidential and legislative voting witnessed no major armed violence, a step forward for the oil-producing country hoping to evolve into a democracy ahead of a referendum next year on independence for south Sudan.

With opposition parties and candidates boycotting much of the north, it is almost certain there will be no change of leadership in both north and south.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — wanted by the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges over Darfur — is likely to be confirmed as president of the republic and Salva Kiir should remain president of semi-autonomous south Sudan, given his party’s dominance there.

Many political analysts fear a newly elected NCP, freshly legitimised by the polls, may clamp down after the results.

The opposition groups that chose to boycott the elections say they will hold peaceful protests after the polls, but a senior member of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said that was not wise.

“At some time this right (to demonstrate) has to be granted fully to the people,” said Salaheddin. “Not these days — the possibility of flare-up, clashes between demonstrators has to be borne in mind,” he added.

Not all Sudanese shared his optimism.



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