The chief of the body tasked with organising south Sudan’s vote on independence is going to ask the country’s political leaders to delay the referendum for three weeks, a move likely to draw the ire of southerners if confirmed.
Preparations for the vote are well behind schedule, with voter-registration now extended until 8 December and the tender to print ballot papers been reopened for Sudanese bidders.
Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, chairman of Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), told members of the commission’s board that he intends to write to president Al-Bashir and President Salva Kiir of the semi-autonomous region, to ask to postpone the referendum until the end of January, according to his deputy Chan Reek Madut.
Madut, in an interview with Reuters, said that his boss had argued that extra time is necessary because of the tight time-frame.
Madut told Reuters he disagrees with his boss and thinks it is possible to meet the 9 January deadline. He warned that "any extension is unpopular."
For his part, Khalil did not deny that more time would help them do a better job. However, he declined to divulge details of the letter and said that the commission was still working hard to meet the January deadline.
"The question of time has always been discussed right from the beginning," he added. "If we get more time we can do this (referendum) more efficiently. If we don’t get an extension, we will try to make do with what we have."
More than 2 million have registered to vote in the referendum so far, according to the commission.