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Russia says Sudan elections fair by ’African standards’

April 19, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The elections that were concluded in Sudan last week should be judged by African standards and not European ones, a senior Russian official said.

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Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov

The Russian special envoy to Sudan Mikhail Margelov said that only technical flaws occurred at the polls but did not impact the integrity of the process as a whole and criticized Western monitors over their assessments made over the weekend.

"In particular, voting papers were delivered late to polling stations. And polling stations themselves did not open on time. The names of some candidates on the lists were distorted or had the wrong symbols," Margelov told Interfax news agency.

"This country is just emerging from a state of war. Moreover, it seems European experts shouldn’t be applying their observations to the whole country - there is information that for security reasons they did not go to Darfur," he added.

Margelov also said that the opinion of the EU’s observers to the effect that the elections "did not meet the key requirements of the electoral process" were too categorical.

Margelov said the elections in Sudan should be judged by African and not European standards.

International election observers from the Carter Center and the European Union (EU) said that the polls had failed to reach international standards but that nonetheless they should be recognized. The EU monitors withdrew from Darfur over security concerns days before the elections were due to start.

Several heavyweight opposition groups boycotted the elections and even those who participated announced later they will not recognize its results alleging fraud and vote rigging further undermining its credibility.

But the Russian official stressed that the reported irregularities did not give enough grounds for casting doubt on the validity of the elections in Sudan.

"One should remember that these elections were held in a country where the traces of Bin Laden’s activities are still warm. And without doubt these elections have been a school of democracy for the Sudanese," he said.

Russia sent observers to monitor the elections saying it is interested in the elections process “because its success would be a success for democracy in Africa and the Arab world”. Moscow has recently been expressing interest in Sudan’s affairs particularly in areas of trade and investments. It is currently one of the main exporters of weapons to Sudan along with China.

(ST)