JUBA, Southern Sudan—Today, Sudan’s National Electoral Commission pushed back the announcement of official results for the country’s first multi-party elections in 24 years. BBC reports that “a full picture is unlikely to emerge until next week.” However, this evening SUNA, the state-owned news agency, sent a text saying that the results of the presidential elections have been completed in the North and will be finalized in the South in the next 48 hours. Contradictory statements, misinformation, and rumors are the norm at present, as Sudan waits in vain for the electoral process to yield results.
To many in the South, the NEC’s announcement today came as no surprise, given the significant difficulties in collecting ballot papers and results from local polling stations—some of which are not accessible by road. (In these locations, the United Nations is helping collect elections materials by helicopter). The tabulation of results is complicated for some of the same reasons that the polling process was complex; the number of ballots and the lack of resources at the local level.
Today, an official at the South Sudan Elections High Committee told Enough that the NEC should have listened to the state-level elections committee in the South, who have a better understanding of the logistical constraints and technical challenges that have affected the electoral process in the South than the national body in Khartoum. Indeed, the NEC has had to push back the results announcement more than once since the polls closed. Some southerners view the delay as yet another tool for NEC manipulation or “fixing” of the results. One man in Juba said to me today, “well, [the results] don’t really matter much at this point, the rigging was already done long ago.”
As the waiting game continues, rumors of the results for hotly contested races are stirring tensions between candidates and their supporters. In the absence of official results, various camps have begun asserting that their candidate has in fact won. (Yesterday, the South’s ruling SPLM party posted on its blog that senior SPLM official Malik Agar had won the Blue Nile state governorship, following reports that both northern and southern military forces were building up troops along the state’s southern border).
In Juba this week, one of the major markets has been closed on and off, likely due to fears by some northern merchants that their shops will be targeted should violence break out around the announcement of results. In other markets, produce and other goods that are typically brought by road from Uganda and Kenya have been in scarce supply, as much of international trade between the South and its neighbors has been put on hold.
Photo: Preliminary tallies in polling station in Juba, giving Yasir Arman the win. (Maggie Fick)