Sudan polls example for Africa

2010-04-18 21:20

Khartoum - Sudanese polls were "free and fair" considering the context, African Union observers said on Sunday, a day after observers from the European Union and the Carter Centre said they had failed to reach world standards.

"It was not a perfect election... but it was a historic one," said Kunle Adeyemi who headed the AU observer mission in Sudan.

"Looking into the fact this is a country that had not had a multi-party election for almost a generation... to say they are free and fair, to the best of our knowledge we have no reason to think the contrary," Adeyemi said.

"We have not found evidence of fraud... we saw a vote that was very transparent."

Between April 11-15, Sudanese voters were asked to choose their president, legislative and local representatives in the country's first multi-party polls in more than two decades.

Earlier, observers from the Arab League said the election was an example that other African and Arab countries could follow, despite some deficiencies.

"The elections did not meet international standards but they are a big step forward compared to other countries in the region," said Salah Halima who headed a mission of 50 Arab League observers.

No evidence of fraud

"They were an achievement despite the deficiencies," he told reporters in Khartoum. "There was no evidence of fraud, but there were deficiencies and mistakes. These mistakes however do not greatly affect the results."

The Carter Centre headed by former US president Jimmy Carter, with 70 observers, and 130 EU observers agreed that the vote was below international standards but did pave the way for a democratic transformation in Africa's largest country.

"There is a consensus among international observers to say that what happened in Sudan is better than what has taken place in other African countries... We want Sudan to be an example for other African and Arab countries," Halima said.

"If the elections did not meet all the international standards, it does not minimise the experience of democratic transformation for Sudan.

"The Sudanese government has opened up space for democracy and we must make the most of it."

The elections are likely to see the re-election of President Omar al-Bashir, who came to power in a military coup in 1989, but they were marred by a boycott by the opposition and logistical problems.