, KHARTOUM, Apr 8 – Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday promised the country\’s first multi-party elections in over two decades will be \’free and fair\’, as campaigning for the April 11-13 vote winds down.
"The elections will be fair and free and clean and exemplary," Bashir told a large gathering at the inauguration of a massive hydroelectric plant in northern Sudan.
They will be clean, because "elections are a religious duty," the Islamist-leaning leader said at the event, which was broadcast on state television.
Sudan will hold its first multi-party vote since 1986 on Sunday, which will include presidential, legislative and local elections.
But the 66-year-old leader, who has led Africa\’s largest country since 1989, has been scrambling to maintain credibility after a boycott by opposition parties and the pullout of EU observers from the war-torn region of Darfur.
Bashir, who was inaugurating the final phase of the Chinese-engineered Merowe Dam, made no mention of the boycott.
The Umma party, one of the two largest opposition groupings in the country, announced late on Wednesday its boycott of the election at all levels.
The announcement came after the former southern rebel Sudan People\’s Liberation Movement decided to boycott the election in northern Sudan, after withdrawing their presidential candidate Yasser Arman from the race.