Sudan parties on last day of campaigns

April 9, 2010 12:00 am

, KHARTOUM, Apr 9 – Sudanese political parties addressed supporters on Friday on the last day of general election campaigning, as President Omar al-Beshir, looking assured of re-election, makes a final push for parliamentary seats.

"We will build roads to Geneina (in west Sudan). We have built a road that reaches the border of Ethiopia (in the east) … We are not focused on just one region, we are working for balanced development," Beshir told a rally in Dalgo, north Sudan.

"People ask \’why are you launching all these projects today?\’ We say they are solid projects; it is not publicity. It is our duty to offer services to our people," he said in an address carried by private TV channels.

Beshir\’s resources have allowed him to stage rallies in all corners of the country, eclipsing the efforts of other parties. He wrapped up his marathon campaign, which drew the ire of opposition parties who accused him of dipping into state funds for his personal bid.

The 66-year-old Beshir is counting on the landmark elections to redeem his stature after he was charged by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, a region gripped by a seven-year civil war.

But the credibility of the election has been marred by a boycott of a significant part of the opposition.

The former southern rebel Sudan People\’s Liberation Movement said it would not field candidates in the northern states, except in the sensitive Blue Nile and south Kordofan, after it said it was withdrawing its presidential candidate, Yasser Arman, from the race.

Opposition heavyweight, the Umma Party, also announced a boycott of the election, with leader Sadiq al-Mahdi refusing to run against Beshir.

Hatim al-Sir, of the opposition Democratic Unionist Party, who has now become Beshir\’s main challenger, is to meet supporters later on Friday in the Nile state in north Sudan.

But Sir, whose chances at beating Beshir are very slim, is hoping to push for the legislative and local elections which remain fiercely competitive in large parts of the country.

Beshir\’s National Congress Party currently controls 52 percent of the 450-seat National Assembly and is hoping to maintain its support in the north, the south being dominated by the SPLM.

Southerners will also vote for the head of the semi-autonomous government of south Sudan.

The current south Sudan leader and head of the SPLM, Salva Kiir, is to address a rally in Juba, the southern capital, later on Friday.

In a bid to quell accusations of fraud, Beshir who has ruled Africa\’s largest country since 1989, promised free and fair elections at a rally on Thursday.

"The elections will be fair and free and clean and exemplary," he told a large gathering at a massive hydroelectric plant in northern Sudan.

On Thursday, the US envoy to the United Nations said "disturbing trends" could mar the outcome of the vote.

"Unfortunately the trends on the ground are very disturbing," Susan Rice told reporters.

She said a decision by the European Union to withdraw observers from Darfur underscored "how insecure and problematic the electoral process is in that portion of the country and elsewhere."

Former US president Jimmy Carter arrived in Khartoum on Thursday as election monitors from his Carter Center prepare for the three-day process.

"We are hoping and praying that it will be a fair and honest election for those (who) are participating," Carter told reporters.

"I regret that some parties have decided not to participate," Carter said, underlining, however, that "there are around 16,000 candidates who are still involved in the election" on all levels.


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