Voting ends in Sudan's chaos-hit election (Roundup)
Apr 15, 2010, 17:08 GMT
Addis Ababa - Five days of voting in elections marred by huge logistical problems and allegations of vote-rigging came to a close in Sudan on Thursday.
The first multiparty elections since 1986 are supposed to usher in a new era of democracy in Sudan, which is recovering from a decades- long civil war between the north and south, as well as conflict in the western province of Darfur.
However, major opposition parties have boycotted the elections and massive logistical problems have prevented many people from voting.
Sudan's ruling party, in an apparent attempt to appease the opposition parties, said late Wednesday it would invite opposition parties into a coalition government.
Ghazi Salaheddin, an adviser to President Omar al-Bashir - who is certain to win the presidential election despite the boycotts - said that it would invite other parties to join the government.
'This is a critical moment in our history,' Radio France International quoted Salaheddin as saying. 'We are facing an important decision like self-determination in the south and we would like to garner as much support and as much consensus as we can.'
The elections, which began Sunday, had to be extended by two days through Thursday due to problems with ballot deliveries and voter registration.
Results are due on Tuesday.
The candidates of the Umma party and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) - the main party in the autonomous Southern Sudan - have pulled out of the presidential poll, although the SPLM is still contesting elections in the south.
The opposition alleged that the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) was rigging the poll and said they were worried about security in Darfur.
Khartoum is keen to legitimize al-Bashir, who seized power in a bloodless 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity in Darfur, analysts say.
Most of the estimated 2.6 million internally displaced people living in camps in Darfur after years of conflict have not been registered to vote.
Many observers say the polls in the province have been rigged in favour of al-Bashir and the NCP through gerrymandering, bribery and manipulation of census figures.
Highlighting the security concerns, four peacekeepers were kidnapped in Darfur on Wednesday.
Despite the problems, the African Union on Wednesday said there were no major problems with the poll and praised the peaceful nature of the vote.
The only trouble came Thursday, when the NCP claimed that five of its members had been shot dead by men dressed in military uniforms in Southern Sudan's Western Bahr El Ghazel State.
The SPLM said it had nothing to do with the attack.
Analysts say there is unlikely to be any significant unrest around the election, but warned that any delay to a January 2011 referendum on independence for Southern Sudan, which was agreed in the 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south war, could lead to violence.
Al-Bashir threatened to cancel the referendum should the SPLM boycott the elections.