South Sudan party wants more time to register voters

South Sudan’s leading political party appealed yesterday for more time for voters to register for the country’s first multi-party elections in 24 years, already tainted by allegations of fraud.
The April 2010 elections are a key part of Sudan’s 2005 north-south peace deal which ended more than 20 years of conflict. Preparations have been hampered by delays and irregularities, contributing to tension between the former foes.
Registration began on Nov. 1 for a 30-day period, but a lack of information and, with mobile registration centres moving every few days, the process has been slow and confused.
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which dominates the semi-autonomous southern government, criticised the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the “absence of a serious awareness campaign to mobilise people to register”.
In a statement, the SPLM urged the NEC “to extend by at least two weeks the period for voter registration”.
The NEC said it was considering extension requests.
Sudan’s political parties have all accused each other of vote-buying and faking voter registration.
“There have been insufficient funds released, causing delays in logistics,” senior SPLM official Anne Itto told Reuters yesterday.
She said only about 20 % of promised funds had been released by the NEC to states in the south, causing transport problems for officials.
The south has little infrastructure and few roads, and violence between rival tribes as well as outbreaks of disease have hindered efforts to register the remote population.
The SPLM and 20 opposition parties have threatened to boycott the elections unless a package of democratic laws is passed first. Talks to draft the laws have failed, despite days of shuttle diplomacy by US envoy Scott Gration.
Sudan’s north-south civil war cost 2 million lives and drove more than 4 million people from their homes in a conflict fuelled by ethnicity, ideology, oil and religion.

Pic: SPLM leader- Salva Kirr of South Sudan