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The Carter Center Notes Concerns with Low Voter Registration Turnout in South Kordofan, Highlights Steps Needed for Credible Polling Process

CONTACTS: In Khartoum:  Tamara Otiashvili +249 902 062 147, In Atlanta: Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124

In a statement released today, The Carter Center welcomed the completion of the voter registration process in South Kordofan. The process was conducted in a generally peaceful environment and the majority of registration centers operated without major problems. However, the Center notes several shortcomings that hurt the inclusiveness and integrity of voter registration and resulted in low turnout. This included the failure of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to devote sufficient registration teams to conduct a comprehensive voter registration process and create a new registry, and the lack of appropriate voter education to ensure participation of all eligible voters.

Registration was conducted by 110 mobile teams, accommodating 1,463 registration centers. According to the NEC, some 642,555 people registered, approximately 100,000 fewer voters than during the April 2010 elections. While registration officials traveled to various locations in an attempt to reach as many eligible voters as possible, citizens were disadvantaged by a lack of sufficient voter education announcing the anticipated registration centers and dates of operation. The establishment of a limited number of registration centers may have also contributed to lower registration figures. These shortcomings were exacerbated by the limited participation and mobilization of civil society and other political parties outside of the two Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) partners, the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), to conduct voter education and mobilization activities.

The challenges observed during voter registration do not compromise the integrity of the overall process; however, the NEC, the State High Election Committee (SHEC), and other stakeholders should take steps to ensure that all registered voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the polling period scheduled for May 2. The Center wishes to highlight these concerns in order to provide lessons learned for future voter registration exercises in Sudan and, where possible, to identify specific areas where the electoral management bodies and other stakeholders could take action to ensure the remaining stages of the electoral process are more credible, inclusive and transparent, and in line with Sudan's national and international commitments.

The NEC should announce the number and location of polling stations in a timely fashion and inform all registered voters of their voting rights and the location of their respective polling station. This will help ensure that all registered voters have equal access to the polls. The Carter Center also urges the wide participation of political party agents from across the political spectrum, as well as increased mobilization of domestic observers, to monitor the polling process. In addition, the Center would welcome the participation of additional international observers given the importance of the elections in South Kordofan for all of Sudan.

Finally, in light of Sudan's commitments to ensure equal and universal suffrage, the responsibility to ensure faithful implementation of the CPA, and Sudan's constitutional protections of freedoms of association and freedom of expression, the Government of Sudan (GOS), in partnership with representatives of the international community present in South Kordofan, should continue to closely monitor the situation in the state. In particular, in the lead-up to polling in May, while recognizing that an election is a political contest, all sides should recommit to working together to achieve a peaceful interim process in the state.

The Center observed voter registration in South Kordofan, conducted from Jan.24-Feb. 12, in preparation for the State Legislative Election scheduled for May 2. The Center deployed six observers who visited 67 voter registration centers in South Kordofan in 19 of the state's 32 constituencies. The Carter Center appreciates the timely action by the NEC to provide accreditation to Carter Center observers, ensuring no delay in observer deployment.

The Carter Center will remain in Sudan to observe the candidate nomination, campaigning period, polling, and counting processes of the South Kordofan elections. The elections will be assessed against the 2005 CPA, Sudan's Interim National Constitution, the National Elections Act, the Political Parties Act, as well as Sudan's international treaty obligations. Currently, the Center has 12 long-term observers in Sudan to report on post-referendum processes and to monitor the postponed elections in South Kordofan and Popular Consultations in Blue Nile. The objectives of the Center's observation mission in South Kordofan are to provide an impartial assessment of the overall quality of the electoral process, promote an inclusive process for all in South Kordofan and demonstrate international interest in the electoral process.

The Center's observation mission is conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct that was adopted at the United Nations in 2005 and has been endorsed by 35 election observation groups. The Center will release periodic public statements on referendum findings, available on its website:

Read the full report (PDF) >

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The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide. A not for- profit, nongovernmental organization, the Center has helped improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers to increase crop production. For more than 20 years, The Center has worked to improve health and prevent and resolve conflict in Sudan. Please to learn more.

Read the full report (PDF)

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