Voter registration for the referendum on southern independence started one week ago. At the half-way point, the ruling party in the north has accused their counterparts in the south of intimidating voters.
The deputy secretary general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, Anne Itto, said Tuesday that the National Congress Party, which controls the government in Northern Sudan, was making accusations against the SPLM because they do not want the south to form its own country.
"They are just looking for a reason why they will not accept the referendum," said Itto.
The south is expected to vote overwhelmingly for independence in a January 9, 2011 referendum. One of the rules for the referendum laid out in the 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade civil war between north and south Sudan is that 60 percent of the people who register have to vote. Because of the poor infrastructure in the rural parts of Sudan, people have to vote at the same place they register.
The NCP has threatened to reject the results of the vote because they said SPLM officials were preventing southerners from registering in the north. Itto said her party has not been intimidating voters. Itto said they have only advised people to think about where they will be in January before they register. Most of the southerners in the north live in and around the capital, Khartoum.
Southern Sudan's Ruling Party Denies Voter Intimidation
"If Southern Sudanese know they are not going to be in Khartoum during voting, they should not register," said Itto.
Rabie Abdelati, a senior NCP official, said on Sunday that officials from the SPLM were threatening and terrorizing people in the north to keep them from registering. The SPLM has expressed concerns that the process could be tampered with in the north by the NCP.
Additionally, Southerners who remain in the north would be more likely to vote for unity because their citizenship status has not been decided and separation could lead to mistreatment if they remain in the north.
While only a small number of voters have registered in the north, nearly one million have already registered in the south. The total number in the south is probably higher than that because the referendum bureau has been unable to contact two-thirds of the referendum centers.
They were supposed to receive satellite phones but many have not yet reached remote areas of the south. Registration is scheduled to end on December 1 and it will be followed by about a month of review before the final voter rolls are published.