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US Envoy Says Washington Will Review Sudan’s Elections With African Union

Newly elected AU Chairperson, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, left, greets AU Partners Group co-chairs, USAU Ambassador Michael Battle and Danish Ambassador Pernille Kardel. (file photo)

A United States envoy says Washington will soon hold discussions with the African Union to review Sudan’s general elections criticized by international poll observers as failing to meet international standards.

Ambassador Michael Battle, who is the United States representative to the African Union, says Washington is reserving serious judgment about Sudan’s elections until it examines the vote with the continental body.

“The U.S. has two tiers of interest with regards to what happens in Sudan. One tier has to do with the elections that just took place and we are going to be engaged with the African Union in a discussion and review of the elections on the 8th of May. So, we are withholding any serious judgment about the elections until we have an opportunity to review with the African Union its assessment,” he said.

International poll observers, including the Carter Center and the European Union, concluded in their preliminary reports that the elections failed to meet international standards.

The United States, Britain and Norway reportedly said in a statement that the elections were marred by poor preparation, suspected irregularities and called for the full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Ambassador Battle said many did not expect the vote to be faultless.

“If you read the report from the European Union observers of the elections in Sudan, they acknowledged that the elections were not perfect, but nobody expected them to be perfect. This is the first election in a quarter of a century, so there was no expectation of perfection. The expectation, however, was that it will be a peaceful election, it will be an exercise of democratic processes that then lay the foundation and clearing the way for referendum in 2011,” Battle said.

Sudan’s National Electoral Commission said final results of the vote originally scheduled to be released on April 20 will be delayed due to what the electoral body described as “a very complicated process”. This comes after early results show incumbent President Omar Hassan al-Bashir leading the poll and set to retain power.

Several opposition groups boycotted the presidential election after accusing President Bashir’s National Congress Party of rigging the vote -- a charge the electoral body denies.

Last week’s vote, which was Sudan’s first in 24 years, forms part of the Compressive Peace Agreement that ended decades of civil war between the north and the south.

The agreement also calls for a referendum in 2011 that would determine whether southern Sudanese would want to secede or remain part of Sudan.

Ambassador Battle said residents of southern Sudan have the right to self-determination.

“The U.S. government is not making a determination on how the referendum should come out in terms of the vote, whether there is a vote for separation or vote for unity…southern Sudanese have the right to the referendum, which is a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement…Since the CPA established that there would be elections in 2010 and a referendum in 2011, we are supporting the process,” Battle said.