A Sudanese political analyst says the presence of international poll observers will help ensure a credible vote in the upcoming general elections, scheduled for April 11-13.
Mayen Benson says the electoral observers could serve as a deterrent despite speculation and fears of fraud and opposition calls for the vote to be delayed.
“What people are saying … is that the international observers are going to [ensure credible and fair elections]. Many people in southern Sudan in particular are first time voters. They are going to vote for the president of the republic and the president of the Government of Southern Sudan (and) various legislative positions for the first time,” he said.
Several international observers are currently in the country to monitor the vote. They include observers from the African Union, the Carter Center, the Arab League as well as the European Union.
Benson said the observers are working closely with Sudanese to ascertain their vote readiness.
“[They] are engaging the local communities to find out whether they are ready for elections… People here are still new to elections. Therefore, what they want to know is how do people vote? They have been educated by the National Electoral Commission and therefore the international observers here are also providing opportunity for the local community to know what elections are,” Benson said.
Opposition groups have accused President Hassan Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) of plotting to rig the vote - - a charge the ruling party denies.
They are demanding an investigation into how a company associated with President Bashir’s government won a contract to print ballots – a move that raises fears of fraud.
Benson said opposition parties are expressing concern about the credibility of the vote.
“Some opposition political parties,” says Benson, “(are) expressing concerns that the elections are going to be rigged simply because the printing press that prints ballot papers is being controlled by the National Congress Party. According to the preliminary agreement, the ballot papers were going to be printed by a company in South Africa,” Benson said.
Meanwhile, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement announced it was pulling out of the presidential election citing rigging concerns after a meeting by top officials of the party.
Local media quoted Riek Marchar, deputy leader of the SPLM as saying “the SPLM will withdraw its candidate [Yasim] Arman from the presidential elections and boycott them in the three states of the western Sudan region of Darfur," Marcher said.
President Bashir however said his ruling NCP is committed to organizing free, credible and transparent vote.