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Sudan’s Referendum Commission Seeks Delay in Voter Registration

Residents of the remote south central Southern Sudan village of Nyal line up to register their names at a local school being used as a voter registration office, 15 Nov 2010.

An official of Sudan’s referendum commission told VOA the scheduled 9th January referendum will “proceed” as originally planned, despite a requested delay to allow the commission to address possible concerns over the just-ended voter registration.

George Benjamin, spokesman of the referendum commission, said the requested delay, in his words, will help organize a better referendum.

“The commission would have loved to have more time to do a better job. The presidency will decide whether it was okay to proceed this way or to give more time. So, he (referendum commission head) did ask directly for more time, but he explained the difficulties the commission is facing right now,” he said.

Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of the commission, has petitioned President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, as well as First Vice President Salva Kiir, for a delay saying it will help the entire referendum process.

It is, however, unclear if the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) will accept the requested delay.

Benjamin said leaders in Sudan would soon have to decide whether to accede to the commission’s requested delay.

“Without the extension, the commission will proceed ahead to organize and implement the referendum. We have just the registration and we are moving to the other stages of objections and going to court, and so on, and then publish the final register after that, and then have the vote on the 9th of January,” said Benjamin.

Meanwhile, a group of concerned southern Sudanese has reportedly petitioned the Constitutional Court to dissolve the referendum commission claiming it has documented evidence of “gross violations” of the Referendum Act.

But, Benjamin said the commission has not yet received any communication from the court over the petition.

“We will respond to that in an official and in a legal way, if the court officially notifies us that there are such cases against the commission. Of course, we will be concerned about anything said about the commission. But, (those) people raising these questions do not respond to the people for which the referendum is being run (for).”