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African Union confirms low turnout in Sudan elections

April 16, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The head of the African Union’s observation mission for Sudan’s general elections has conceded that voter participation had been weak, estimating that only about one-third of eligible voters had cast their ballot.

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Election officials at a polling station on the first day of Sudan’s presidential and legislative elections in Khartoum on 13 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

Speaking in a press conference after the end of the four-day ballot, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters that the percentage of eligible voters varies between 30 and 35 adding “the turnout was low, almost is less than 40%”.

Obasanjo attributed the small turnout to the boycott by opposition and civil society groups, but added that the elections should not affect the national dialogue between the Sudanese political forces to end war and achieve democratic reforms.

The National Election Commission (NEC) announced that the vote count operation will begin on Friday and the result will be officially announced on 27 April.

The opposition parties and civil society groups called to boycott the electoral process as the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) rejected their demand to postpone the elections and prioritise the African Union supported efforts to bring peace and engage a comprehensive national process for a new constitution.

Obasanjo noted that the vote faced difficulties in troubled Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where the government troops fight the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

He also mentioned the logistical problems that triggered the extension of vote process in Al Jazirah state and some parts of Darfur region.

In a report disclosed recently, an African Union technical team tasked with evaluating the pre-elections environment in Sudan said the political environment in the country is restrictive due to the lack of political freedoms and continuation of war in different parts of the country.

In a report submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) last month, the assessment mission advised not to send a monitoring mission due to its inconsistency with the standards of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

However, the AUPSC went against its recommendations, underscoring its involvement in the ongoing efforts to end Sudan’s conflict and operate a smooth democratic transition.

Sudan Tribune reporters spotted several polling stations were empty from voters in different electoral constituencies in the Sudanese capital on Thursday while the ruling party urged its membership to work actively to bring voters to the vote centres.

Several heads of polling stations complained of weak voter turnout on the fourth day, also they pointed to the existence of errors related to the fall of voters names and the repetition of the names of electors in a number of electoral constituencies.

SATISFIED WITH TURNOUT

However presidential assistant and NCP vice president Ibrahim Ghandour told reporters they are satisfied with the election turnout, adding they are not part in the NEC’s decision to extend the vote period.

“I can assure you that we are quite satisfied with the turnout of (election),” Ghandour said in a press briefing for foreign reporters at the premises of the ruling party on Thursday evening.

“Those who are talking about the low turnout they just do not know what is going on or they are deliberately talk about,” he said in English.

He further explained that his government was not involved in the decision of the electoral body to extend the vote for an additional day after the small participation during the three-day vote period.

TRANSPARENT ELECTION

The head of the Chinese delegation to monitor the Sudanese election, Zhang Xun, said the electoral process was characterised by transparency, stability and safety, and was held in line with international electoral standards .

In a press conference held at the Chinese embassy in Khartoum on Thursday, Zhang stressed that the elections are an internal matter for Sudan alone, adding “We firmly reject (foreign) interference in the affairs of others.”

(ST)