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Sudan parties close to election bill deal

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Februray 13, 2008 (JUBA) — Sudan’s two main parties are close to agreeing on a draft bill paving the way to historic national elections, but remain split over how votes will be counted, a southern minister said on Wednesday.

The elections, planned for 2009, were promised as part of a peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war and are seen as crucial to the long-term stability of the region.

Khartoum’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which leads southern Sudan, had made strong progress in finalising draft legislation on how the election would run, said the south’s Minister for Public Service, Awut Deng.

She said they were hoping to reach a final compromise by Sunday, and that Sudan’s National Constitutional Review Commission, dominated by the two parties, had already "passed a large part of the bill".

But they were still divided on how many of the votes should be counted through proportional representation and how many through a first-past-the-post constituency system.

There were also disagreements over how many seats should be reserved for women, and how many votes smaller parties would have to gain before winning a seat.

Both sides had agreed to let international observers into all polling stations, she added.

They had also decided that while the president would appoint the Electoral Commission, it would still have to be approved by two-thirds of the standing parliament.

The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which set the elections for 2009, also created the country’s current NCP-SPLM coalition government and promised a referendum in 2011 on the possible secession of the south.

(Reuters)

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