February 2, 2010 / 10:53 AM / in 8 years

No gross violations in Sudan poll: US official

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s electoral process has not been subject to “gross violations” and it is unlikely the ruling National Congress Party could unfairly swing next April’s vote its way, a senior U.S. administration official said.

<p>Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey, August 20, 2008. REUTERS/Osman Orsal</p>

Sudan’s opposition have complained of widespread fraud, including vote-buying, intimidation and falsifying documents by the NCP during last year’s voter registration and have threatened to boycott the country’s first democratic elections in 24 years.

“Yes there are probably irregularities, yes, in all elections there are probably some,” the official told Reuters in a telephone interview late on Monday.

“But in the big scheme of things ... there’s probably a high probability that if 16 million people come out and vote, that ... will reflect a large proportion and fair proportion and credible proportion of the Sudanese voting population.”

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said estimated numbers of false registrations ranged from between 300,000 to 1.5 million from a total of more than 16 million voters.

“It makes it very difficult to sway an election because the numbers are so great,” the official added. “I don’t see all these gross violations.”

The official said even if President Omar Hassan al-Bashir won April’s elections, that would not be enough to change the position of Washington or the International Criminal Court (ICC) on his government.

The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Bashir last year over charges of war crimes in Darfur and analysts say Bashir is hoping to establish his democratic credentials by winning the election. Sudan is under U.S. sanctions and on Washington’s list of state sponsors of terror.

“That does not legitimise the leader until he starts doing things to show that (his) is going to be a remade party -- one that takes care of its people,” said the official.

The NCP signed a peace deal in 2005 with the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ending more than two decades of civil war and allowing democratic elections to be followed by a southern referendum on independence in 2011.

The official said the north-south border, along which much of Sudan’s oil wealth lies, must be demarcated before the 2011 referendum. Most analysts predict the south will vote to secede.

Other issues including citizenship, currency, wealth sharing and the status of the Nile’s waters must be discussed before the vote, he added.

“They have to have a plan so everybody knows what happens on independence day.”

NCP-SPLM talks on post-referendum issues have made little progress with both sides accusing each other of delays.

Sudan’s north-south civil war, fought over differences in religion, ideology, ethnicity and oil, claimed 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes, destabilising much of east Africa.

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