8 January 2011 – A day before polling begins for the Southern Sudan self-determination referendum, the commission in charge of the balloting process disclosed the official number of registered voters and confirmed readiness for the historic vote.
Speaking today at a Khartoum press conference, Southern Sudan Referendum Commission Chairman Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil said the total number of voters who had registered for the poll both in Sudan and out-of-country voting centres was over 3.93 million.
About 95 per cent of eligible voters, or more than 3.75 million, registered in Southern Sudan, while some three per cent, 116,860 people, registered in the north. More than 60,000 registered in eight foreign countries (Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States).
These figures mean that almost 75 per cent of the previously estimated number of eligible voters registered for the process, the chairman said. According to the referendum law, the outcome is only considered legal and binding if at least 60 per cent of registered voters participate.
"Those who prefer unity will tend to look for someone to blame if there is secession," Mr. Khalil said. The commission's responsibility was to ensure a transparent and credible process, but it was not responsible for the outcome of the vote, he added.
Mr. Khalil also noted that security during polling would be ensured by the police and government, and was beyond the responsibility of the commission.
The SSRC was ready for the beginning of the process, another commission member said, adding that President Omar Al-Bashir's milestone speech during his 4 January visit to Juba was an assurance that the outcome of the referendum would be accepted by the Government. (For story about President Bashir's visit, click here.
Voters can only vote in the location where they registered during the seven-day period assigned for the exercise by the law, commissioners noted. Referendum results would be announced within one month of the polling.