Elections are step towards democracy, says NEC

11 Apr 2010

Elections are step towards democracy, says NEC

Although they may not be perfect, elections were the greatest chance Sudan had to become democratic, commissioners of the National Elections Commission (NEC) told a Khartoum press conference on 10 April.

Addressing international and national media at Khartoum's Friendship Hall one day before polling was to begin, NEC Chairman Abel Alier stressed that elections were a long process, not just a one-shot event.

The commission had completed several important steps since May 2009, Mr. Alier said, including demarcation of geographical constituencies, voter registration and candidate nomination. Now, it had arrived at the final step called for by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) – polling itself.

Calling for the Sudanese population to "make every effort to vote" between 11 and 13 April, the NEC chairman emphasized that the commission was committed to free and fair polling.

The elections were the greatest opportunity Sudan had to transform into a democratic society, NEC Deputy Chairman Abdallah Ahmad Abdallah said, noting that the CPA, which ended 22 years of civil war, provided for democratic, free, fair and transparent elections.

"We are aware that there is no perfect election, but a national endeavour is the first step in democratic transformation," Mr. Abdallah said. He added that a country could not suddenly enter democracy, as European countries or the United States of America "also didn't become democratic societies within one year".

To avoid possibilities of election rigging, the NEC had analyzed various international polling systems and chosen the strictest one, Commissioner Mukhtar al Assam said.

Explaining the polling process in detail, Mr. al Assam said all ballot papers had a serial number and would receive a stamp at polling centres, which would serve as proof of their legitimacy.

Citizens eligible to vote had to prove their identity with ID cards or with the help of identifiers present in every polling centre (assisting in identifying persons without ID cards), Mr. al Assam said, and would have their index finger inked to avoid replication of voting.

To receive information about polling station locations, citizens across the country could dial 606 from any phone line, Mr. al Assam added.

Emphasizing the magnitude of the logistical task, Commissioner Al Hadi M. Ahmed said 170 million ballot papers were printed and delivered to over 10,000 polling centres across Sudan.

Responding to a question, Mr. Alier refuted allegations claiming he had wanted to resign from the NEC Chairman post due to disappointment in the electoral process. "I never threatened to leave the job unfinished," he said, "it is not in my nature."

On the withdrawal of candidates from elections, Mr. Abdallah said that pulling out was valid until 12 February, according to the Elections Law.

After that date, candidates were considered contestants and citizens could legally vote for them, Deputy Chairman Abdallah said.

Closing the event, the commissioners thanked the UN Mission in Sudan, the UN Development Programme, the Carter Centre and other organizations for their technical and professional assistance throughout the electoral process.

Click here to see UNMIS video release on the conference