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Dream election result for Sudan's President Bashir

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Sudan president celebrates victory

By James Copnall
BBC News, Khartoum

President Omar al-Bashir got exactly what he wanted from Sudan's elections.

The president's supporters are presenting this electoral victory as the Sudanese people's response to the International Criminal Court, which has issued an arrest warrant for Mr Bashir, accusing him of war crimes in Darfur.

"This is a message to the whole world: the president is legal and the representative of the whole people," said NCP official Rabie Abdelati.

"Any accusation now is an accusation against all the people."

PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS
National
Omar al-Bashir, NCP: 68%
Yassir Arman, SPLM (withdrawn): 22%
Abdallah Deng Nhial, PCP: 4%
Hatim al-Sir, DUP: 2%
Sadiq al-Mahdi, Umma (withdrawn): 1%
Southern
Salva Kiir, SPLM: 93%
Lam Akol, SPLM-DC: 7%
Source: National Elections Commission

But the ICC has already said the election result will not change its decision to indict President Bashir.

His 68% share of the vote was convincing, and his party swept the north.

Those results have been challenged by the Sudanese opposition, and doubted by others, following many accusations of fraud.

But with next year's referendum on possible southern independence approaching fast, these elections will be recognised internationally.

When several parties opposed to President Bashir, including the SPLM former rebels who run the south, pulled out of the presidential race, they overestimated their hand.

Their strong stance was undermined when some parties decided to contest after all.

'Intimidation'

All the same, those who did boycott believed their withdrawal had removed all legitimacy from the elections.

Western observers, from the EU and the Carter Centre, criticised the polls as "not meeting international standards".

SUDAN STAKES
map
Africa's biggest country
Divided along religious and ethnic lines
11-15 April elections first multi-party national poll for 24 years
Continuing conflict in Darfur
President Bashir wanted for war crimes in Darfur
South Sudan rebuilding after 21 years of civil war
South Sudan could secede in 2011
Large oil fields near north-south border

But to the opposition's dismay, former US President Jimmy Carter made it clear the "international community" would recognise the winners.

Northern opposition politicians allege the whole process was flawed, including the drawing up of constituencies, the census, the electoral registration and the vote itself.

Regional observers, including the Arab League and the African Union, insist the elections were free and fair.

Some Sudanese observers disagreed strongly.

Sudan Democracy First, an umbrella organisation in the north, put forward what it called strong evidence of rigging by President Bashir's National Congress Party.

The Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections (Sunde) spoke of harassment and intimidation in the south, by the security forces of the SPLM.

In both parts of this divided country ordinary citizens and disgruntled candidates took great risks to highlight what they perceived as abuses.

Worrying questions

In eastern Sudan, a secret film apparently showing election officials rigging the vote for the NCP was put on YouTube.

Alleged victim of torture in south Sudan
This man says he was attacked for supporting the opposition to the SPLM

In the south, the SPLM-controlled security forces were accused of torturing people who did not vote for the SPLM.

Candidates opposed to the SPLM said they were often detained, or stopped from campaigning.

If only a fraction of these accusations are true, it raises worrying questions about the referendum, and indeed about how the south would be governed if it became independent.

So where does this controversial process leave the country?

Northern Sudan is more than ever in the control of President Bashir and his party, which won just about every seat it contested, other than in disputed areas on the north-south border.

President Bashir has shored up his power base before next January's referendum on possible southern independence.

Disillusion

Officials from his party have promised to continue to allow the same - limited - freedoms the press and opposition parties enjoyed during the campaign.

But many are sceptical.

I am most afraid that the National Congress in these coming months will try to delay the referendum
Yassir Arman
SPLM candidate

The northern opposition have criticised the vote, saying they would not accept the results, and calling for peaceful protests to demand new elections.

Nevertheless President Bashir has a mandate, democratic or otherwise, to do whatever he pleases.

The only counterweight is provided by the SPLM in the south.

It, too, swept the board in the territory it controls. For example, it won nine of the 10 state governorships.

The 10th went to an independent candidate - who is a colonel in the SPLA, the southern army.

The reaction of disillusioned southern politicians, including independent candidates who lost, is worth watching.

Unilateral secession?

Suitably strengthened, both north and south now turn their eyes to the referendum.

Supporters of the SPLM
Sudan's elections are a step on the way to the southern referendum

President Bashir once again stressed, in a speech broadcast immediately after the results were announced, his commitment to holding the referendum on time.

But many in the south are worried.

"I am most afraid that the National Congress in these coming months will try to delay the referendum," said the SPLM's Yassir Arman, who received more than two million votes for president, despite having decided to boycott the polls.

The SPLM has already made it clear if the referendum is delayed it will unilaterally declare independence.

So now the voting is over it is time for a lot of hard negotiations.

First, President Bashir will form a national unity government, which should include the SPLM, but probably not most of the opposition.

Then the NCP and the SPLM must agree on several key issues relating to the referendum, including perhaps most crucially the demarcation of the north-south border.

Ultimately, Sudan's elections will probably be viewed as simply a flawed step on the way to the referendum.



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