Home | News    Wednesday 30 March 2011

S. Kordofan elections: Carter Center concerned over low voter registration

By Julius N. Uma

March 29, 2011 (JUBA) - The Carter Center has expressed concerns over low voter registration ahead of elections due in South Kordofan state, highlighting steps, it says, are necessary for the conduct of credible for the May 2 polls.

Jimmy Carter, who heads the Carter Center addressing journalists in Juba, South Sudan after the January referendum, January 19, 2011 (ST)

In a March 29 statement the center lauded the completion of the registration process, saying it was conducted in a generally peaceful environment.

A total of 642,555 people, according to the National Elections Commission (NEC) were registered, with the figure said to be about 100,000 fewer than those who registered during the April 2010 elections.

South Kordofan was the only state in Sudan which did not hold the referendum on schedule in April last year. The registration process was conducted again after demands from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Many groups from the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan joined the southern-based SPLM in their two decade civil war against the Khartoum government. However, after the South voted for independence in January as part of a 2005 peace deal that ended the conflict, South Kordofan is set to remain part of north Sudan governed by Khartoum.

After the elections are conducted the state will follow Blue Nile, by holding Popular Consultations to asses whether the peace deal has addressed their grievances. The consultations will also assess the relationship between the state and the Khartoum government.

Registration for the elections, which are expected to be a close contest between the SPLM and Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP), was conducted by 1,463 registration centers with the process manned by 110 mobile teams spread across the state.

According to the Carter Center, issues such as insufficient voter education, long distances travelled by registration officials to various locations in an attempt to reach as many eligible voters as possible and logistical challenges were notable setbacks to the registration process.

“The establishment of a limited number of registration centers may have also contributed to lower registration figures,” the center’s March 29 statement says.

It added, “These shortcomings were exacerbated by the limited participation and mobilization of civil society and other political parties outside of the two Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), to conduct voter education and mobilization activities.”

The center remains optimistic that the challenges observed during voter registration will not compromise the integrity of the overall process. It appealed to the NEC, the State High Election Committee (SHEC), and other stakeholders to take up steps necessary to ensure that all registered voters equally participate in the polls.

“The Center wishes to highlight these concerns in order to provide lessons learned for future voter registration exercises in Sudan and, where possible, to identify specific areas where the electoral management bodies and other stakeholders could take action to ensure the remaining stages of the electoral process are more credible, inclusive and transparent, and in line with Sudan’s national and international commitments,” further says the March 29 statement.

It also appealed to the electoral body to announce the number and location of polling stations in a timely fashion and inform all registered voters of their voting rights and the location of their respective polling station. The process, the Center argued, will help ensure that all registered voters have equal access to the polls.

POLITICAL PARTY AGENTS

During the elections, the Center urged, there should be wide participation of political party agents from across the political spectrum, as well as increased mobilization of domestic observers, to monitor the polling process.

From Jan.24-Feb.12, the Center observed voter registration in South Kordofan, in preparation for the State Legislative Election scheduled for May 2. In the process, the Center reportedly deployed six observers who visited 67 voter registration centers in South Kordofan in 19 of the state’s 32 constituencies.

(ST)