The Carter Center has released its evaluation of Sudan’s voter registration process, which ended December 7th. It says registration was largely successful, despite logistical and security problems.
Aly Verjee, a Carter Center observer in Sudan, says, “The registration process was broadly inclusive and generally peaceful and therefore a success for the elections commission and for the people of Sudan. “
However, he says additional steps need to be taken “in the elections process and within the political context in order the make genuine elections possible.”
First, the good news
“According to the National Elections Commission (NEC), the figures of Sudanese registered are quite encouraging. The commission reports that at least 75 percent of Sudanese were registered, which is quite close to the target that they were aiming for,” he says.
But, there were problems.
“Certainly, there’s a lack of civic education. There’s a lack of awareness of the process and many people did not fully understand what it is they were participating in,” he says.
Despite the higher registration figure, there was unequal participation in the process across the country, especially in the Darfur region in the west.
“There are also security challenges that remain and clearly there are still many things that need to be fulfilled in the political process,” he says.
It's the first voter registration in South Sudan in many years
“The registration process there did manage to reach most of the areas of the 10 states, although there were some difficulties in delayed start in certain areas. And there were logistical and security challenges in other areas. As time went by, the number of people reached increased and the final numbers for southern Sudan…are very encouraging.” he says.
One is a “sustained and extensive effort” to ensure there is general awareness among the population about the voting process.
Another is “to publish the preliminary voters list and the final voters list without delay,” he says, “and to open those lists (to) examination and verification where necessary.”
The Carter Center also says political freedoms must be protected.
“The context of Sudan is one where there’s still much work to be done to ensure that fundamental freedoms of assembly, of expression, of association are respected,” says Verjee.
What’s more, the recommendations say the political activities of individuals, civic groups and local organizations must be allowed and political party pluralism protected.
Keeping an eye on things
“We will continue our observation mission. The Carter Center has been here since February 2008 monitoring the…political process in Sudan. We’ll continue our long term observation efforts through the end of the exhibition period, which is underway now, and into 2010. And we certainly hope to be here for the elections themselves,” he says.
However, Verjee says at this time no individual observers have been accredited by the NEC.