The United Nations has played down reports that Sudan's elections, currently set for February, could be delayed once more. But some analysts are skeptical that the country's two main parties can resolve their differences over the organization of the election in time to hold the vote in February.
Sudan's national elections, part of the 2005 peace agreement that ended the two-decade north-south civil war, were initially scheduled for July. But earlier this year, with preparations far behind schedule, the exercise was delayed to February of 2010.
On Tuesday, the deputy chairman of Sudan's National Election Commission told Reuters that elections could be delayed again, pointing to a delay in the release of census results necessary for registering voters, and to the coming rainy season, which will put preparations on hold in many parts of the country until October or November.
But a UN Development Program official in Sudan said the commission has not said anything specific about delaying elections. Principal Senior Electoral Advisor Jorge Guzman said the chairman of the commission yesterday raised a number of issues that the commission is considering, including delays in releasing the census results. But he said the existing election calendar remains in place.
The political secretary for President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party this week also reiterated support for holding elections on time.
But the director of the Sudan program at Justice Africa, Hafiz Mohammed, is skeptical that the elections will take place on schedule, pointing to the recently-released census results, which the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the main party in the south, continues to reject, as the main stumbling block.
"I don't think elections are going to go ahead on time. The census is supposed to be the basis for the demarcation of the election constituencies. Now the SPLM is not recognizing it," he said. "This is the main problem. How to solve it, no one knows. You have to come out with the demarcation first, and then the registration of voters and then the other processes, and all that has to finish before February," he added.
The SPLM, led by former rebels who now control the semi-autonomous southern government, says the census results inflated the figures for some groups in the north, and understated the total number of southerners in the country.
Mohammed says the SPLM and the NCP also remain in disagreement over laws governing political freedom. He says relations between the two parties are at a low point, and a resolution of their differences appears unlikely anytime soon.
Mohammed also says the prospects for international pressure are limited.
"The international community has very limited power and influence. Up to now I don't see that the international community will be able to do anything to speed up the process or resolve the outstanding issues. There is no sign that there is any thing which the international community can do to break this deadlock," he said.
The chairman of the electoral commission said Tuesday that organizing the elections will cost some $1.1 billion, urging the international community to provide support.