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Sudan extends voter registration by a week

Sudan’s January 9 referendum organising commission, said on Friday, that it has extended voter registration by one week, though the date of the event remains the same

Salah Ibrahim and AFP, Saturday 27 Nov 2010
Sudanese register to vote
Officials from the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) speak with a voter during the fourth day of registration for the 9 January 2011 referendum on the independence of south Sudan, at a registration point in the southern Sudanese city of Juba 18 November 2010

Sudan’s January 9 referendum organising commission, said on Friday, that it has extended voter registration by one week, though the date of the event remains the same.

"Southern Sudanese people now have until the 8th of December to register," commission member Achier Deng told reporters in the southern capital Juba.

"The schedule has been revised but it will not compromise the date of January 9," Deng added of polling day.

"Time is tight, but there are days here and there that can be saved," he said, explaining that the registration period had been extended for "technical reasons."

Southern Sudanese began registering for the referendum on November 15, a key phase in the lead-up to the historic vote which is to decide whether or not the South is to secede. The registration process had been due to end on December 1.

About five million south Sudanese are eligible to register for the vote, including those living in the north and an estimated 500,000 to two million who live abroad, according to UN estimates.

The referendum commission said this week that it has registered more than 1.3 million southerners to vote in the south. However a UN official said the registration rate remained "extremely" low in the north.

President Omar al-Bashir's National Congress Party welcomed the extension especially as the registration rate remained extremely low, specifically in the North.

The NCP filed a complaint with the commission earlier this week charging that several registration centres in the north were often situated far from where the southern communities are living.

The NCP also claimed that southern Muslims with Arab names had been prevented from registering.

There are 2,794 voter registration centres across the country, 2,629 of them in the south.

In Cairo, two of three designated centres opened only  on Thursday, the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission's Mary Isaac told AFP, a day after observers from the Carter Centre expressed concern about the delayed opening of Egypt's referendum centres.

Those eligible to vote in the referendum include permanent residents of south Sudan since 1956, when the country gained independence from Britain, and those who can trace their ancestry to an established south Sudan tribe.

Analysts maintain however that the scene still points to a general reluctance to participate in the electoral event caused by political pressures exercised by both parties,

Voters, on the other hand, argue on whether secession or unity would be their better choice in terms of their own political rights.

The commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the Arab League to authorize 80 monitors to supervise the referendum.

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