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Sudan elections 'failed' to meet international norms

Election monitors
Election monitors observed the counting of ballots

Two international organisations monitoring the elections in Sudan say the controversial polls failed to meet full international standards.

The EU and the Carter Center, led by former US President Jimmy Carter, said there were significant failings, citing reports of intimidation and harassment.

However, both concluded the polls were a significant step towards democracy.

Results are to be returned on Tuesday, with Omar al-Bashir expected to be reaffirmed as president.

The polls - presidential, parliamentary and regional - were the first multi-party elections since 1986 and part of a north-south deal to end two decades of war.

The complicated ballot was beset by problems and heavily criticised by the Sudanese opposition and local observers.

Harassment

Now, two of the biggest observer missions on the ground have concluded that the elections were faulty.

"It is obvious that the elections will fall short of international standards that are expected of advanced democracies... The people's expectations have not been met," former US president Jimmy Carter told a news conference.

ANALYSIS
James Copnall
James Copnall, BBC News, Khartoum
The EU and the Carter Center observers both indentified serious flaws in the process. Jimmy Carter said his observers had seen polling officials instructing people which candidate to vote for.

The EU's chief observer talked of "harassment" of voters, and the ruling parties in the north and the south using their advantage in resources to get people to vote.

But the conclusion reached by both - an election which does not meet international standards - is not damning enough to rock the boat unduly.

President Omar al-Bashir will be able to celebrate a crushing victory in the presidential race, in which his two major rivals dropped out. Mr Carter's belief that the international community will recognise the victors is perhaps the most significant thing.

Perhaps judgments would have been different if stability in the run-up to next January's referendum on possible southern independence was not so important.

The EU observer mission's judgement was similar, concluding there were both irregularities and significant deficiencies.

"Turnout is very high, 60%, but with significant deficiencies," said EU mission chief Veronique de Keyser at a news conference in Khartoum.

"These elections did not reach international standards, not yet."

The irregularities quoted included the late arrival of election material, problems with the voting list, and the harassment of voters.

Observers said the ruling parties in both the south and the north also used their huge advantage in resources to influence the vote.

The EU's team was withdrawn from Darfur, where a low-level civil war continues, because of fears about safety and whether the monitors could observe freely.

Neither of the observer groups called for a re-vote, but recommended instead that the lessons learned be applied to next year's key referendum on Southern Sudan's independence.

Mr Carter said he believed the international community would recognise the winners.

The BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says President Omar al-Bashir is certain to win the presidential election.

Our correspondent says he wants a respectable victory to show the Sudanese people support him after he was indicted for alleged war crimes in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.



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