Ex-President Carter Welcomes Sudan Vote Extension

Published April 14, 2010

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose organization is monitoring Sudanese elections, welcomed on Tuesday a two-day extension in the voting as complaints about the process mounted.

The elections ending Thursday are expected to keep President Omar al-Bashir in power for another five years, even though he is under an international indictment for alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

In the capital Khartoum, official media said the National Election Commission expects to announce initial results on Friday. Salah Habib, a commission spokesman, said final results are due on April 20.

"There are problems but we are trying to solve and correct them," Carter told reporters Tuesday in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan. "I think it is a very good decision by the electoral commission to extend the voting by two more days."

Voting began Sunday and had originally been scheduled to end Tuesday. But it was extended through Thursday after widespread complaints about the process. Election monitors say voting was delayed in some parts of the country, particularly in the impoverished south. There were reports some polling stations had been moved without notice, voter registries or other crucial equipment was missing and observers were not allowed in to witness the process.

The former American president, whose Carter Center monitors elections around the world, met Tuesday with voters and polling stations staff members in Juba.

This is Sudan's first multiparty election in almost a quarter century, agreed under a 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of a bloody north-south civil war. It was intended to bring a democratically elected government for the impoverished country and prepare for a referendum next year on independence for southern Sudan.

But international observers, local monitors and opposition complained the process has been flawed from the start and heavily controlled by al-Bashir's ruling party.

On Tuesday, al-Bashir's party and other southern political parties have also accused the junior partner in government and the main southern party, The Sudan People's Liberation Army, of heavy-handedness.

The semiofficial Sudan Media Centre reporting from the south, said about 400 members of the ruling party in the region have been arrested by the SPLA forces for no reason.

"If harassment continues, we will consider these elections faulty," a southern Sudanese leader, Lam Akol, told reporters in Khartoum. Akol is running for presidency of the semiautonomous southern government against the head of the SPLA and current President of the south, Salva Kiir.

A minister in South Sudan's government, Anthony Makana, said voters are running into many problems in the south - including long lines and incomplete voter rolls - because the electoral commission didn't plan the elections well. He estimated that only 30 percent or less of the south's eligible voters had cast ballots so far.

Makana, the minister of roads and transport, said some poll workers have refused to work because the electoral commission wasn't providing any food for them or time to eat, and that they were working 10 hours straight without lunch.

Sudan's opposition parties accused the United States on Monday of backing the country's elections despite the deep flaws favoring the government.

Sawsan Hassan, a member of a local monitoring group, Asmaa Society for Development, said its team has recorded polling stations with not enough security.

"I think extending the voting is unnecessary. This increases the chances of fraud. What is going on is very barbaric. The operation is not free and fair from the start," she said.

In addition to the president, the Sudanese are also electing a national assembly, local governors and parliaments and the president of the semiautonomous government of South Sudan.

Written by <P>By MOHAMED OSMAN ,Associated Press Writer</P>

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