Sudan’s political parties accused each other of widespread fraud and intimidation as voters began registering for the nation’s first multi-party elections in 24 years due next April.
The reports underlined a growing rift between the two main parties in the coalition government which fought each other in a two-decade civil war ending in a 2005 peace deal.
Opposition political party monitors told Reuters they had evidence of intimidation, buying of votes and other irregularities by Sudan’s dominant National Congress Party (NCP), headed by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a northerner.
Bashir’s NCP dismissed the opposition allegations and accused the junior coalition partner, the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), of trying to sabotage the elections. NCP supporters had been tortured in the south, it said.
The SPLM and 20 opposition parties have threatened to boycott the elections if a long overdue package of democratic laws is not passed. They walked out of parliament last month.
Bickering between the NCP and SPLM boiled over at a UN- sponsored meeting last week. US Sudan envoy Scott Gration failed to persuade the former enemies to reach a resolution after extending a trip to Sudan to hold three days of intensive talks.
Both sides said yesterday said they would meet again today and tomorrow in another attempt to reach an agreement.
“The (NCP) are using government resources for their campaign,” opposition Umma Party official Mariam al-Mahdi told Reuters, saying her observers had seen many cases of faked papers and other fraud.
Voting has already been delayed from July 2009, but the election commission is still struggling to meet deadlines and registration made a slow start on Nov. 1.
However, the state news agency Suna quoted commission official Jalal Mohamed Ahmed on Sunday as saying registration was going well and dismissing reports that international election monitors had faced restrictions.
The SPLM said the NCP was bussing in hundreds of people without identity cards to register at centres where they are not resident. An SPLM monitor had been offered a bribe to turn a blind eye and had refused to take it.
NCP officials dismissed the reports, saying they would not tolerate any electoral violations by party members.
The NCP accused the SPLM of arresting, torturing and intimidating its members trying to register in the south.
“They don’t want this election because they know they will lose in the south and in the north,” presidential assistant Nafie Ali Nafie told a news conference.
“There is no political will on the side of the SPLM.”
SPLM officials said they would look into any reports of irregularities by their members.
Sudan’s north-south civil war claimed some 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes, destabilising the region.
Under the 2005 peace deal, southerners will vote in 2011 on whether to secede from Sudan. Foreign Minister Deng Alor, a southerner, said last week that they would vote overwhelmingly for separation if the referendum were held now.