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Sudanese polls must be peaceful and credible, UN chief stresses

10 April 2010 – Tomorrow's historic presidential and parliamentary elections in Sudan must be conducted peacefully and credibly, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the country's Government, electoral authorities and political parties to play their part to ensure the polls take place free of violence or intimidation.

Sudanese go to the ballot box for the first time in 24 years to elect a national president, and they are also being asked to cast a vote for a southern president, state governors and for members of national and local assemblies.

These elections are “an important milestone in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)” that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan, Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in which he welcomed the poll and called on all Sudanese to exercise their right to vote.

“For the international community, the holding of peaceful and credible elections is of paramount importance,” Mr. Ban added.

The lead-up to the election, which will take place over three days beginning tomorrow, has been marked by international concerns over the conduct of the vote. European Union (EU) observers had withdrawn from the war-scarred Darfur region because of security concerns and some opposition parties reportedly said they would boycott the poll.

Mr. Ban said he hoped the election would “contribute to the opening of political space in Sudan” in advance of two critical referenda scheduled for next January that will determine whether southern Sudan will secede and the status of a disputed region in the centre of the country.

“The Secretary-General encourages the Government, the National Elections Commission (NEC) and political parties to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, free of violence, harassment or intimidation and to engage in dialogue to address outstanding concerns.”

The UN has provided technical assistance and limited logistical support to the NEC following a request from the Security Council, but both Mr. Ban and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy have stressed this week that the polls are a nationally-owned process.

On Thursday Mr. Le Roy, who briefed the Council on the status of preparations for the polls, told the press that while he was encouraged by some steps regarding political freedom and ensuring candidates have equal access to the media, some concerns remain.

“It will be for observers – 750 international and 18,000 domestic – to assess the elections,” Mr. Le Roy said. “It will be important that the process and results be regarded as legitimate by the Sudanese population.”

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