South Sudan’s main party to boycott vote in north

Khartoum–Southern Sudan’s main political party said Tuesday it would boycott this week’s local and parliamentary polls in the country’s northern provinces, a move that further erodes the credibility of Sudan’s first multiparty elections in decades.

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement said it was withdrawing its candidates from the northern states for the April 11 vote — which includes local as well as parliamentary and presidential polls — because of alleged government control of the media and biased legislation that make an honest vote impossible.

"We are certain that fraud in these elections is widespread, with which it will be impossible to hold free and fair elections," SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum told reporters. "There are continuous violations to the law and the customs of the elections."

Amum said the party will still contest local and national parliamentary elections in Sudan’s southern provinces and two regions along the oil-rich north-south boundary line. The announcement comes days after the SPLM withdrew its candidate from the national presidential race and said it would not field candidates in the volatile Darfur region.

Tuesday’s announcement was greeted with loud cheers from SPLM supporters at the party’s headquarters in Khartoum. The crowd shouted "No to partnership with the Islamists," in reference to the Islamist government in the north.

The SPLM is the junior partner in Sudan’s governing coalition, and its boycott decision throws the party’s relations with President Omar al-Bashir into question.

The national and presidential elections are a crucial step in the 2005 north-south peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war and paves the way for a crucial referendum that will allow southerners to decide whether to secede from the Muslim-dominated north.

Some 2 million people died during the war. It is separate from the Darfur conflict which erupted in 2003 and has left 300,000 people dead. No comprehensive peace deal has been reached for Darfur.

The president’s National Congress Party has been accused by opposition parties of using state resources, limiting their access to the media and controlling the independent National election commission, undermining their chances and the fairness of the process.

International observers and rights groups have said all signs point to a flawed process where the independent National Election Commission is unlikely to deliver a free and fair vote and on time.

Election officials said Tuesday preparations for the vote were going smoothly and the polls will be held on time.

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