Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:31 am (KSA) 21:31 pm (GMT)

Sudan election to start on time despite protest

Electoral commission official Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah briefs the press following a meeting with U.S. envoy Scott Gration
Electoral commission official Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah briefs the press following a meeting with U.S. envoy Scott Gration

Sudan's elections commission on Saturday said the first multi-party polls would go ahead on time, dashing an opposition party's demands for a four-week delay to address complaints of irregularities in the process.

The main candidates for the presidential elections, apart from the opposition Umma party leader, withdrew from the race this week, saying the vote was already "rigged" for incumbent President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to win.

 The National Elections Commission (NEC) is working to have the elections on the dates we specified on April 11, 12, 13 
Deputy head of the NEC, Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah,

Umma party head Sadeq al-Mahdi, Sudan's last democratically elected leader, listed eight demands including a four-week delay to be agreed to before April 6, or his party would boycott all parts of the presidential, legislative and gubernatorial votes.

"The National Elections Commission (NEC) is working to have the elections on the dates we specified on April 11, 12, 13," deputy head of the NEC, Abdallah Ahmed Abdallah, told reporters after meeting U.S. envoy Scott Gration.

"The NEC confirmed to Gration that it had completed all the necessary procedures to have the elections on the specified dates," he added.

The Umma party leader said on Friday Gration had told him he would try to achieve the four-week delay. He flew into Khartoum after the opposition boycott threats.

Free and fair as possible

 These people have gone to great lengths to ensure that the people of Sudan will have access to polling places and that the procedures and processes will ensure transparency 
U.S. envoy Scott Gration

On Saturday, Gration said he was confident the country's first general elections since 1986 would be as "free and fair as possible" and would start on time on April 11.

Gration was speaking to reporters in Khartoum after meeting members of the electoral commission.

"These people have gone to great lengths to ensure that the people of Sudan will have access to polling places and that the procedures and processes will ensure transparency," Gration said.

Meanwhile, Bashir told a campaign rally in the eastern town of Kassala there would be no delay. Last month he threatened to expel international observers who asked for a delay.

South Sudan's leading party triggered the election crisis on Wednesday by withdrawing its presidential candidate, seen as Bashir's main competition, and boycotting all levels of polls in Darfur because of the conflict there.

The decision by the ex-rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) threw the opposition into disarray with little consensus arising on whether to join the boycott and to what degree.

Bashir wants to win the elections to legitimize his rule, in defiance of an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur, after a brutal counter-insurgency campaign begun in 2003.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 died in the humanitarian crisis sparked by more than 2.5 million fled their homes after mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms accusing central government of neglect.

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