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Sudan's Bashir Retains Presidency

Alan Boswell | Juba, Sudan 26 April 2010

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has been announced the winner of the nation's first multi-party vote in 24 years. Opposition parties have rejected the results, which they say were rigged, but all eyes likely now focus on a southern independence referendum eight months away.

Sudan's election commission says Mr. Bashir won 68 percent of the nation's votes. Under electoral law, he needed to surpass 50 percent in order to avoid a run-off vote against his nearest competitor.

Yasir Arman, the northern secular Muslim slated by the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement to challenge Mr. Bashir, came in second with 22 percent, most of which came from the southern states. His strong showing was made despite announcing his withdrawal from the race days before polling began, citing electoral fraud.

In Southern Sudan, the president of the semi-autonomous region and head of the SPLM, Salva Kiir, retained his seat with 92 percent of the votes from the region.

Some international observers, such as the Atlanta-based The Carter Center, have said the election will fall short of international standards. Northern opposition groups widely boycotted the elections, citing what they called an unfair campaign environment and allegations of vote rigging. Following the five days of chaotic polling, the charges of vote rigging have only escalated from the opposition forces.

But with the results final, the international community has indicated its efforts will be focused on securing the final implementation of a 2005 peace deal signed between Bashir's government and the southern SPLM rebels. The accord includes a January referendum in the South on whether to remain part of the country or to secede and form its own state.

The lead-up to the referendum is contentious, with a number of outstanding issues analysts warn could derail the peace process.

With no major change in the leadership of either of the two peace parties, these negotiations are expected to begin hitting their final sprint, and logistical planning for the referendum starts almost immediately.

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