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Observers Declare Sudan Voting a Success

One of the European Union Chief Observers Veronique de Keyser leaves a press conference in Khartoum, Sudan, 17 Jan 2011

The major organizations monitoring the referendum on independence in Southern Sudan are releasing their findings on the voting process. Despite a few concerns, they say the voting has been a success.

The Carter Center, European Union and African Union, have all called voting in the referendum peaceful, fair and transparent. Each organization’s preliminary results were released within two days of the end of voting and do not include any observations from the ongoing counting process.

There were smiles on the faces of Southern Sudan officials when the head EU observer, Veronique de Keyser, read off her team’s findings Tuesday in Juba.

"The headline of our preliminary statement is: 'Peaceful, credible voting process with overwhelming turnout mark Southern Sudan referendum," said De Keyser.

The referendum organizing commission announced on the last day of voting that turnout had reached above 80 percent in the south. Only 60 percent of the almost four million registered voters needed to turnout for the vote to be valid.

The referendum on southern independence is the centerpiece of a 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan. The agreement ended 21 years of civil war that took about two million lives and displaced about four million people.

Southerners were given the chance to choose whether to stay united with the north or form their own country. Early returns from southerners who voted in Europe, Australia and Kenya and a small sampling of voting centers in Juba indicate more than 90 percent are in favor of secession.

Thousands of observers were in Sudan to watch the vote and only a few isolated reports of intimidation or violence have come out. The European Union had 110 observers in Sudan and visited 800 centers during voting. De Keyser added that their work in Sudan is not done, despite the successful voting process.

"It is important, I would say even crucial, to remember that this is not the end of the process," De Keyser explained. "The crucially important results-processing phase will continue for the next two-to-three weeks."

The African Union and Carter Center released their results on Sunday and Monday. They said the same thing as the European Union, the vote was free, peaceful, fair and transparent.

Now all the results are being counted at the county level and preliminary results from the counties are expected later this week. Final results will be announced in mid-February, according to the referendum commission’s schedule.

Most likely, the north and south will then go back to the negotiating table and figure out how to make their divorce as smooth as possible.