Sudan extends presidential poll by 1 day amid low turnout

AP News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2015 2:13 PM
Sudan extends presidential poll by 1 day amid low turnout

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan extended voting another day in its presidential and legislative election Wednesday as campaigners went door to door to seek voters amid a low turnout that saw poll workers eating and praying to pass the time.

While state media trumpeted a "successful vote," most centers appeared empty amid widespread apathy about a vote certain to extend President Omar al-Bashir's 25-year rule despite an economic crisis and insurgencies roiling parts of Sudan. Al-Bashir also is the only sitting world leader wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges, which are linked to the long-running conflict in Darfur.

Sudan's opposition, weakened by a government crackdown, is boycotting the vote. They've called for the formation of a transitional government to oversee key constitutional amendments to ensure a fair and free vote.

"People are boycotting because this is a government that humiliated, terrorized, made us lose hope and stole our dreams. This is a government that led Sudan to a state of war," activist Zahra Haidar told The Associated Press.

Haidar and a dozen opposition figures gathered at the house of a young activist named Sandra Kadouda, who disappeared this week after joining an anti-election campaign. Her family believes that she has been seized by security authorities, though authorities have denied arresting her.

To increase turnout, authorities gave awards for polling centers with high turnout. Voters were not required to even show their IDs in order to cast a vote, with many carrying a piece of paper obtained from a local city council their home address. Witnesses said that ruling party campaigners went house to house, calling on people to vote.

At one Khartoum polling center in the upper-middle-class neighborhood of al-Riyadh, turnout was only 15 percent after three days of voting, election official Youssef Ibrahim said. Other workers spread out mattresses in the empty poll place while some drank tea.

"Even if you give people a month, they won't come if they don't want to come," Ibrahim said. "The people are fed up. After 25 years, people have had enough."