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01 Dec 2009 12:33
Millions of voters could be left out of Sudan’s first elections in 24 years because of a failure of authorities to persuade more people to register for the poll, international observers said on Tuesday.
The elections, scheduled for April next year, have already been marred by accusations of fraud and opposition parties have threatened to boycott them if democratic reforms are not passed before they take place.
International observers from the Carter Centre said they were concerned poor publicity over the process had already hit the number of people registering to vote, warning some states might sign up fewer than half of eligible voters.
“Without civic education millions may effectively be disenfranchised by a combination of ignorance of the electoral process, mistrust of central authorities, and poor publicity of registration activities,” a Carter Centre statement said.
“Without specific attention to reaching those most distant from the process, the registration exercise will be undermined.”
The ballot was set up under a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war in the oil-producing nation. But leaders from both sides remain at loggerheads over preparations.
The Carter Centre urged Sudan’s National Elections Commission (NEC) to increase publicity and funding for teams signing up voters across Africa’s largest country, saying current figures showed most states might miss registration targets.
It said there were concerns over the turnout for registration in western Darfur territory as well as the east, south and the central Kordofan regions.
Registration was due to end after a 30-day period on November 30 but was extended for one week following concerns about low turnout and public awareness.
The presence of government intelligence agents at registration centres in Darfur might intimidate voters there, it said.
It also said agents from some political parties were gathering outside centres to take down voters’ personal details and persuade them to hand over their registration receipts.
The Carter Centre also said it was concerned that military and security personnel had been allowed to register where they work, rather than where they live, which might allow for double registration.—Reuters
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