Sudan independence vote at 60 percent threshold, says official

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

JUBA - The outcome of Southern Sudan’s landmark independence referendum will be valid as more than 60 percent of registered voters have already cast their ballots, an official from the southern ruling party said Wednesday.

Anne Itto, deputy secretary general of southern ruling party the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), said around 2.3 million people had cast their ballots in the week-long vote, which got underway Sunday.

“On the part of the SPLM, we feel like by the third day we have reached 60 percent turnout,” Itto told journalists in the southern capital Juba.

The referendum commission did not immediately confirm the figures.

Just under four million Southern Sudanese are registered to vote in the poll, which is widely expected to see the south vote to break away from the north. The result will only be considered valid if more than 60 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.

The week-long referendum is the centrepiece of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and Animist south - a conflict that claimed the lives of more than two million southerners and displaced four million more.

Concerns the vote could spark a return to conflict have faded as the poll was organised on time and Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir indicated he will accept the autonomous south’s decision to secede.

However, clashes between northern and southern tribes in the oil-producing border region of Abyei during the vote have raised tensions in the area.

According to the referendum commission’s timetable, preliminary results will be announced on Feb 1. Final results are expected by Feb 14.

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