President Omar al-Bashir looked set to retain his grip on power as counting began on Friday in Sudan’s first multi-party election in 24 years after five days of voting marred by logistical problems and charges of fraud.
“Al-Khitim (stamp in Arabic). Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir,” said a National Election Commission staffer to show ballot papers were officially stamped before reading out the candidate’s name.
In a classroom-turned-polling station in Khartoum, commission officials read out each ballot under the watchful eye of local observers and representatives of the different political groups.
One party member contests a ballot paper, sending staffers diving for their electoral law manuals before agreeing that the ballot in question should not be counted.
The election was marred by an opposition boycott and the withdrawal of two presidential candidates, the Umma party’s Sadiq al-Mahdi and the former southern rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s Yasser Arman.
The two were considered strong challengers to Bashir, but their withdrawal means the veteran president is set for a near-certain win, with Hatim al-Sirr from the Democratic Unionist Party a distant second.
Around 16 million registered Sudanese voters had been asked to choose their presidential, legislative and local representatives. Southerners were also voting for the leader of the autonomous government of south Sudan.
The Sunday-Thursday vote was Sudan’s first multi-party election since 1986, and results are expected on Tuesday.