A senior official of the south Sudan referendum commission told VOA that, barring any court challenges to the preliminary results of the 9th January vote, the commission will announce the final outcome of the landmark referendum on 7th February.
The commission was originally scheduled to announce the final results of the poll on 14th February.
George Benjamin said the commission expects to, in his words, progressively collect the rest of the results in southern Sudan, where the bulk of the vote took place.
?Now we have found results from the eight countries abroad and from northern Sudan, but we are now waiting to complete the results from southern Sudan,? said Benjamin.
?The trend clearly shows that secession is the willing option of the two options of the referendum. Now, the results of southern Sudan are not yet complete, but those collected so far also indicate the same direction that secession is winning and is leading over the other option of unity of the country.?
The latest preliminary results released by the referendum commission show well over 90 percent of voters choosing separation from the north. International poll observers have said the referendum was free, fair, and credible.
Benjamin said the commission is waiting to complete the tally of results in southern Sudan.
?The results of 61 percent of the (poll) centers in southern Sudan have already come in and already being entered into the database in Juba. We are just waiting for the results of the remaining of 39 percent of centers in southern Sudan,? said Benjamin.
?The work is going on progressively well and we are sure everything will be complete before the final date of the 14th comes, when the final results will be announced. But, of course, preliminary results will have to be announced on the 31st (January) for southern Sudan.
The referendum commission is also expected to allow for opponents of the referendum to challenge the preliminary results before a final outcome could be released.
Benjamin, however, said the final results could come a week sooner than the final date scheduled for the announcement.
?In case there would be no appeals and the preliminary results are announced on the 31st, we may as well announce the final results on the 7th of February rather than on the 14th of February,? said Benjamin.