Sudan flashpoint region may see weak polls

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KHARTOUM – Observers on Tuesday expressed concern that long-delayed elections in Sudan’s key oil-producing South Kordofan state could be weakened by low voter turnout and confusing procedures.
The border area saw the fiercest battles during Africa’s longest civil war between Sudan’s north and south and will likely contribute most of the north’s future oil production after the south, where 75 percent of Sudan’s current 500,000 barrels per day production lies, secedes in July.
The region’s gubernatorial and state assembly elections were delayed from April 2010 because of disputes over a census. The elections are due in May but Carter Center observers said even fewer people registered for these polls despite a new census which increased the region’s population.
“These shortcomings in the registration process in South Kordofan undermine Sudan’s national and international commitments,” the Center said in a statement. The Carter Center is the largest international observer mission for the elections. It blamed a lack of voter education and a policy of using only mobile registration centres, adding that no ink was used as physical evidence to identify whether someone had already registered elsewhere.
April’s elections were marred by opposition accusations of bias and corruption against the elections commission and many parties boycotted. The commission was not immediately available to comment. The Center urged the commission to redress the electoral weaknesses by ensuring enough polling teams were deployed for the May vote and that voters were told in advance where they would be.
South Kordofan’s arduous electoral process has been disputed at every stage and analysts fear any sign of electoral fraud could spark violence. Much of the Nuba population sympathised with the south during the war while some of the region’s Arab tribes were mobilised as proxy fighters by the north.