, KHARTOUM, Jan 10 – The commission overseeing Sudan\’s landmark referendum on southern independence announced on Monday voter turnout of 20 percent in the south on the first day of polling.
"The percentage of those who voted yesterday in the northern states was 14 and in the southern states it was 20 percent," Paulinoo Wanawilla Unango, of the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), told reporters in Khartoum.
Southern Sudanese flocked to polling stations in the south on Sunday for the week-long plebiscite that it is widely expected to see their country split with the Arab-Muslim north and put the seal on decades of north-south conflict.
But under the terms of the 2005 peace deal that ended the 22-year civil war, voter participation in the referendum must pass the 60 percent threshold for the results to be valid.
Wanawilla also gave an update on the timetable for the referendum results, saying that the preliminary results for the southern states, where the vast majority of the 3.93 million voters are registered, would be announced on January 30.
"And if there are no appeals, the final results will be announced on February 2," he added.
Some 3.75 million people are registered to vote in the south and around 117,000 in north Sudan, most in the capital Khartoum. Emigres are also able to vote in eight countries abroad.
Britain, Norway and the United States, the three main Western brokers of the Sudan\’s north-south peace process, on Sunday hailed the work of the SSRC and its "enormous efforts under significant pressure."