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The shiny new headquarters of Sudan’s referendum commission was buzzing with activity on Monday, less than four months ahead of the scheduled start of a seismic vote on whether the country’s oil-producing south should declare independence.
Unfortunately, officials were not all busy putting the final touches to voting registration lists or preparing publicity materials for the region’s inexperienced electorate.
First they had to set up the office — staff, who only moved in around a week ago, bustled around rearranging furniture as they waited for deliveries of everything from computers to curtains.
Today, with just with 115 days, or 81 weekdays, to go until the plebiscite, Sudan remains startlingly unprepared for the vote, promised under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.
When it takes place in Sudan.
Preparations for Sudan’s general elections — due to start tomorrow — were thrown into confusion over the past two weeks as opposition parties issued contradictory statements over whether they were boycotting the polls.
Some announced a total withdrawal, protesting against fraud and unrest in Darfur, only to change their minds days later. Others pulled out from parts of the elections — presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial votes are taking place at the same time — then changed their minds days later. Others left it up to individual candidates to decide.
Manoah Esipisu is deputy spokesperson at the Commonwealth Secretariat. He is co-author of “Eyes of Democracy: Media in Elections”. He writes in his personal capacity.
Next week South Africa will hold its fourth elections since the extinction of apartheid and the rise to power of freedom icon Nelson Mandela. The election will come four months after the cliff-hanger 2008 election in Ghana, and ahead of potentially critical elections in Angola, Malawi and Mozambique.