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Sudan bustling on election eve

11 April 2010 0:24

On the eve of presidential, parliamentary and local elections, Sudan is facing criticism that major opposition boycotts undermine the credibility of the process.

Several main opposition parties have walked out of April 11-13 vote — billed as the African country’s first multi-party elections in 24 years — after their calls for a delay over rigging concerns were denied.

The Umma Party has completely withdrawn from the race, while the main opposition party of Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has announced that it would only contest in the south.

The row ignited after it was revealed that the National Election Commission has contracted a government-owned company to print ballots instead of a Slovenian firm.

The boycotts leave only minor opposition groups to challenge President Umar Al-Bashir’s ruling party in the north.

Al-Bashir, who is widely expected to win reelection, has promised a free and fair vote.

A landmark peace deal in 2005 that ended over two decades of north-south conflict paved the way for the elections.

Some 16 million people are eligible to vote, but due to widespread illiteracy and lack of basic transportation the United Nations has expressed concerns that many Sudanese may not be able to access polling stations.

Preparations reportedly include a security force of over 100,000 police officers over the vote period.

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