Sudan elects wanted Bashir as president

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has won Sudan’s first open elections in 24 years in a result that confirms in office the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Bashir won 68 percent of the presidential vote, while Salva Kiir retained his job as the president of Sudan’s semi-autonomous south, with 92.99 percent of the vote in that race, Sudan’s National Elections Commission announced.

After a vote that outside observers said fell short of global standards, Bashir is expected to form a coalition with Kiir as the country heads toward a 2011 referendum on whether south Sudan should split off and become Africa’s newest state.

Bashir had hoped a win in a legitimate vote would help him defy the ICC warrant, in which he is accused of ordering a campaign of murder, torture and rape in Sudan’s Darfur region.

But the election, meant to mark Sudan’s transformation into a democratic state, were marred by widespread charges of fraud, including from Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), suggesting the new ruling coalition will be a fragile one.

Bashir appeared on state television soon after the result saying the Sudanese people “have achieved this moral victory before the eyes of the world in a civilised, high class and shared manner”.

He added that Sudan would hold the southern referendum “as scheduled”. Many southerners fear Bashir will try to disrupt the plebiscite in a manoeuvre to keep control of the south’s oil.

Kiir said he felt “total dismay” about reports of election irregularities and promised to investigate all complaints.

“No amount of intimidation or provocation will lead us back to war. We will maintain security and prepare our people for the referendum in 2011,” he told journalists in the southern capital Juba, going on to congratulate Bashir on his win.

A breakdown of the presidential votes showed massive majorities of up to 95 percent for Bashir in most northern states, although those percentages dipped in three states of Darfur and border regions.

Kiir won overwhelmingly in every southern state.

Bashir’s victory was dismissed by opposition parties. They boycotted the vote, citing fraud.

“They cooked the figures — (Bashir) didn’t get 51 percent of the vote,” UMMA Reform and Renewal leader Mubarak al-Fadil told Reuters. “His campaign was conducted under one party system with all the foundations of a police state … it was a farce.”

The result was announced amid unusually high security — police used sniffer dogs and mirrors to check cars outside the venue, guarded by five trucks filled with armed police.

Flag-waving supporters of Bashir’s National Congress Party gathered at its Khartoum headquarters and some slaughtered a camel in preparation for celebrations set for yesterday evening.

Human Rights Watch said the win gave Bashir no extra legal immunity against the ICC charges.

“Political oppression and human rights violations undermined the freedom and fairness of the vote all over Sudan,” the group’s Africa director Georgette Gagnon said in a statement.

Bashir and Kiir’s current coalition government has had a rocky five years since the signing in 2005 of a peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war.

North-south tensions bode poorly for full implementation of the peace deal, including next year’s referendum.

Any major delay to that vote would be unacceptable to southerners, who most believe overwhelmingly want secession.

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