Two candidates running for presidency in the Sudanese elections said that they have decided to drop out of the race in protest at what they describe as serious violations committed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The NEC said Wednesday that it would extend the voting period nationwide by an extra day until Thursday evening without stating the reasons. Observers however attributed it to the poor voter turnout.
Ahmed Radi, one of the two withdrawing candidates, told Sudan Tribune that the NEC extension decision and low voter turnout prompted him to make that move.
Radi said he would formally inform the NEC of his decision on Thursday and noted that the NEC chairman told him that they will declare a winner any presidential candidate who receives a mere 50.1% of the votes.
The second candidate Omer Awad al-Karim also announced his withdrawal calling the elections a “farce”.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Karim said that his conscience and his sense of responsibility towards the nation and the people compelled him to stay away from “the play designed to trick the Sudanese people in the name of democracy”.
He cited several breaches including absence of serial numbers on the ballots, making the pre-elections silence period two days instead of one as stated by the electoral code and accepting residency affidavits in lieu of government identification for voters.
“As for what was happening inside the [polling] centres in terms of wrongdoing and abuses called irregularities by the NEC ... I have seen with my own eyes offences happening that are contrary to the electoral law,” Karim said.
He also claimed that the NEC did not direct its staff to verify identities of face-veiled women opening the possibility of allowing duplicate voting.
Another presidential candidate by the name of Mahmoud Abdul-Jabbar said he rejects extending the voting process in the state of Khartoum, saying “This is totally unacceptable for us”.
“The extension will enable the ruling party to rig the elections dramatically and solicit people who do not have any proof of identity and give them residency affidavits to cast their votes,” he told Sudan Tribune.
“We are against the extension [of voting] in Khartoum state even for one hour,” he added, claiming outright fraud had been committed in the voting process.
Alam al-Huda Hamid, another presidential candidate, said the extension was due to voter numbers falling short of required quorum.
But he warned that the extension may spoil the electoral process and make it “messy” and lacking credibility based on democratic and international standards.
The Associated Press (AP) said that to increase turnout, Sudanese authorities gave awards for polling stations with high turnout.
A Sudan Tribune reporter has seen attempts by supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to convince voters in some neighbourhoods of Khartoum to cast their ballots by offering them free rides to the polling stations.
At one Khartoum polling centre in the upper-middle-class neighbourhood of al-Riyadh, turnout was only 15% after three days of voting, election official Youssef Ibrahim told AP.
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.”
About 13.6 million people are eligible to vote across the country. The poll results are expected on 27 April.