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Sudan Referendum Official Pleased With Voter Turn Out

  • Peter Clottey

An elderly Southern Sudanese woman casts her vote Monday in a ballot box at a polling center in the city of Um Durman, Sudan, Jan. 10, 2011

The deputy chairman of the south Sudan referendum commission said he is pleased so far with the organization of the vote, as well as the turn out since voting began Sunday.

Justice Chan Reec Madut also called on registered southern Sudanese who are yet to vote to do so before the end of the landmark referendum.

“All that I want to ensure is that the referendum is conducted in a free, fair and transparent session and, so far, it has gone very well. Today, I went out to Eastern Equatorial…The mood was just the same, it’s all dancing, singing and (a) huge turnout,” he said.

The week-long voting is reportedly proceeding smoothly and peacefully in most areas. The referendum commission said 20 percent of registered southerners -- about 750,000 people -- cast their votes Sunday, the opening day of the poll. The referendum continues through Saturday.

Madut told VOA southern Sudanese are the best people to determine whether his commission organized a smooth and a credible referendum.

“The judgment is left to the people. I know that we have been charged, as members of the commission, to conduct the referendum in the shortest time possible beginning from July last year when we were appointed to the commission. And, we did what we could and, thank God, we have managed to beat the time. So, the referendum has taken place as it was planned and agreed upon.”

He also praised the political commitment of both the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in helping his commission to organize the referendum.

Most analysts predict the south will vote to separate from the north. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has pledged to accept the results and help the south, regardless of the outcome.

Dignitaries from around the world, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, are in Sudan to observe the vote.

Nearly 4 million people are registered to vote in the week-long poll, including some in northern Sudan and abroad. Preliminary results are expected next week.

Under terms of the peace deal, 60 percent of registered voters must cast ballots for the referendum to be valid.