Elections in a flashpoint state in north Sudan were credible despite some irregularities, the largest international observer mission said after the southern ruling party accused Khartoum of rigging the vote.
South Sudan voted to declare independence from Khartoum in a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war with the north. The split is due in July.
The state of Southern Kordofan will stay with the north but analysts say any talk of election fraud could spark violence between supporters of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the northern ruling National Congress Party (NCP), Reuters reports.
On Sunday, the National Election Commission in Khartoum said NCP candidate Ahmed Haroun — a man wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur — had won the governor vote held more than two weeks ago.
The SPLM said the vote was rigged but the U.S. Carter Center, which has the largest international observer mission on the ground, said the election outcome was credible.
“Despite a climate of heightened insecurity and instances of procedural irregularities that removed an important safeguard of the process, South Kordofan’s elections were generally peaceful and credible,” it said in a statement.
“The Carter Center did not observe systemic irregularities that would invalidate the results,” it said, adding that voting and counting had been conducted in a transparent way and under scrutiny of the main parties.
South Kordofan borders the south of Sudan and holds most of what will remain of the north’s oil output after the south splits away. It is also home to many fighters who sided against the north during the civil war.
Khartoum will lose of up to 75 percent of Sudan’s 500,000 barrels per day oil output when the south secedes on July 9. Southern Kordofan holds the most productive fields left in the north.
It is also important to Khartoum because it borders Darfur and the disputed, oil-producing Abyei region, another north-south flashpoint in the build-up to secession.
Bashir, also wanted by the International Criminal Court, held onto power in last year’s election and his NCP won an overwhelming victory in the north. The SPLM, which will stay an opposition party in the north, dominated the south.