The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) instructed newspapers to omit any references to the low voter turnout in the parliamentary and presidential elections which started on Monday to a slow start in the capital, Khartoum and neighboring states.
Newspapers were told to report about the elections in a positive light, editors told Sudan Tribune.
The incumbent president and presidential candidate for the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Omer al-Bashir accompanied by senior government officials and his two wives casted his vote at the St. Francis School in central Khartoum.
Sudan Tribune reporters toured several polling stations in Khartoum in the early hours of the voting and found that the majority were empty.
Some voters complained about the voting process and described it as “complicated”.
The voting period will continue for three days till end of day Wednesday.
An elections monitor at a polling station in the al-Kalakla neighborhood, south of Khartoum expected the turnout to increase in the afternoon, stressing to Sudan Tribune that the turnout during the first six hours of voting was less than expected.
Voting was delayed in some polling stations for two hours due to logistical problems.
A polling station in the city of Rufa’ah in Jezira state told Omdurman TV that they haven’t received ballots for the parliamentary elections, saying they informed the National Elections Commission (NEC) but did not get an answer from them.
Electorates vote on seven electoral cards including one card for the president besides three parliamentary cards for geographical constituencies, proportional list and woman list and three cards for the legislative councils in Sudan’s 18 states.
According to NEC, more than 13 million people have registered to vote at some 11,000 polling stations across the country.
1,072 candidates are competing for 425 parliamentary seats while 7,000 others are competing for 2,235 seats at the states’ legislative councils.
The country’s main opposition forces are boycotting the elections in which 15 little-known candidates are challenging the incumbent.
The NEC acknowledged voting glitches in Gezira and Sennar states because of delay in arrival of voting equipments to some polling stations and tardiness of poll workers.
An NCP parliamentary candidate for East Wad Medani constituency by the name of Abdullah Babiker blamed the chaos on the NEC and said it caused lack of interest in voting because of rudeness by poll workers and refusal to accept any documents other than government-issued id.
A spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Ali Mohamed Hamza blasted the NEC performance citing a handful of glitches and logistical issues “that would negatively impact the elections reputation”.
Hamza said that up until 3 pm 70% of polling stations in the city of Wad-Medani could not accept voters because of these issues.
Two presidential candidates by the name of Esam al-Ghali and Mohamed al-Hassan al-Sufi could not find their names in the voter rolls in their districts which meant that they could not cast their ballots.
POLLING STATION ROUNDED & DETENTIONS
At south al-Mattama polling station in Nahr al-Neel state the residents prevented voters from entering in line with the position of a sizeable DUP faction which had called for elections to be boycotted.
The area is a DUP-dominated constituency that voted overwhelmingly for its presidential candidate in the 2010 elections.
When the DUP mainstream faction headed by Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani announced its participation in the elections, its leadership figures in south al-Mattama defected to other DUP factions.
Elsewhere, Sudanese activists claimed that authorities arrested dozens of their colleagues which Sudanese presidential assistant Ibrahim Ghandour said it was because they worked to prevent people from voting.
The Arab Coalition for Sudan (ACS) and the Arab Network for Media Crisis (ANMC) have condemned detention of activists and students on the eve of elections, describing the arrest campaign as “unjustified”.
They demanded in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday swift and unconditional release of the detainees, and also rejected NISS’s directives to local newspaper not to publish negative reports on the electoral process.
“The ACS and the ANMC express regret over the gradual return of the [pre-publication] censorship by exerting pressure on the political newspapers’ chief editors to refrain from publishing reports touching on the low turnout or elections boycott”, the statement reads
The statement also saw actions taken by the Sudanese government including suppression of public freedoms and freedom of opinion and expression as violation to local laws and international covenants.
It pointed out that those actions would neither legitimize elections nor give it popular recognition particularly in the absence of a real competition and strong oversight, saying results of elections are known beforehand.