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Monday, April 26, 2010

'War crimes' Sudan president wins election

President Omar al-Bashir (picture) has been declared winner of Sudan's first open elections in 24 years despite his outstanding international arrest warrant over war crimes in Darfur.

Mike Pflanz, east Africa Correspondent | TELEGRAPH.CO.UK - 26 Apr 2010

The 66-year-old leader wanted a clear victory to prove his domestic popularity in the face of International Criminal Court charges over his involvement in Darfur's seven-year civil war.

But the contest was marred by allegations of vote rigging, intimidation and doctored voters' lists, charges which led to most opposition candidates pulling out before polling day. Despite this, election officials announced that Mr Bashir had won with 68 per cent of the vote.

Salva Kiir, president of semi-autonomous southern Sudan, won his second term in office with 93 per cent of ballots cast there.

The elections were the first since 1986. They mark a key milestone in conditions laid down in the 2005 peace deal which ended Africa's longest-running civil war between Sudan's north and its south.

Mr Bashir said that the Sudanese people, "have achieved this moral victory before the eyes of the world in a civilised, high class and shared manner".

Election observers would disagree: initial reports warned that the polls fell far short of international standards because of faulty voter lists, delays on vote day and intimidation of some opponents.

The country faces a far sterner test next January, when the south will again go to the polls to vote in a referendum on whether the country should split into two.

Mr Bashir promised to ensure that that referendum goes ahead. Some fear it will be delayed as the north would lose control of several key oilfields if the south secedes.

"It was not perfect, but this election could have been a lot worse," said a European diplomat in the capital Khartoum.

"Mr Bashir has won his mandate to show off to the international community that he is still popular, even if there was no opposition. But the real show will come in January. Between now and then, a lot can change."