Sudanese elections must be peaceful, credible: UN chief

16:40, April 11, 2010      

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The historic presidential and parliamentary elections in Sudan must be conducted peacefully and credibly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday, urging the Sudanese government, electoral authorities and political parties to play their part to ensure the polls take place free of violence or intimidation.

Sudanese will go to the ballot box on Sunday for the first time in 24 years to elect a national president, and they are also being asked to cast a vote for a southern president, state governors and for members of national and local assemblies.

These elections are "an important milestone in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)" that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan, Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson here Saturday, in which he welcomed the poll and called on all Sudanese to exercise their right to vote.

"For the international community, the holding of peaceful and credible elections is of paramount importance," Ban added.

Sudanese Ambassador to the UN Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad expressed confidence here Thursday that the upcoming Sudanese national elections set for Sunday will be "fair, transparent and successful."

"I can ensure that everything is set for a fair, democratic and transparent elections that everybody in Sudan will be proud about, " Mohamad told reporters here at the UN Headquarters after Security Council consultations on Sudan, which will hold the elections on Sunday.

The lead-up to the election, which will take place over three days beginning on Sunday, has been marked by international concerns over the conduct of the vote. European Union (EU) observers had withdrawn from the war-scarred Darfur region because of security concerns and some opposition parties reportedly said they would boycott the poll.

In the UN statement, Ban said he hoped the election would " contribute to the opening of political space in Sudan" in advance of two critical referenda scheduled for next January that will determine whether southern Sudan will secede and the status of a disputed region in the center of the country.

"The secretary-general encourages the government, the National Elections Commission (NEC) and political parties to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, free of violence, harassment or intimidation and to engage in dialogue to address outstanding concerns," the statement said.

The UN has provided technical assistance and limited logistical support to the NEC following a request from the UN Security Council, but both Ban and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy have stressed this week that the polls are a nationally-owned process.

On Thursday, Le Roy, who briefed the 15-nation Security Council on the status of preparations for the polls, told the press that while he was encouraged by some steps regarding political freedom and ensuring candidates have equal access to the media, some concerns remain.

"It will be for observers -- 750 international and 18,000 domestic -- to assess the elections," Le Roy said. "It will be important that the process and results be regarded as legitimate by the Sudanese population."



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