Polls close across most of Sudan after four-day vote

Khartoum: Polling stations closed across most of Sudan on Thursday after nationwide elections that President Omar al-Bashir is widely expected to win were extended by one day.

The elections for the presidency and state and national parliaments started on Monday and were due to last for three days, but were extended until 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Thursday by the National Electoral Commission amid reports of a poor turnout.

At a polling station in Khartoum`s Amarat neighbourhood, voting officials sealed ballot boxes with plastic bindings at 7:00 pm, an AFP correspondent said.

The school housing the centre was quiet, and just a handful of voters arrived in the hour before the centre closed.

More than a dozen volunteers waited inside the compound on plastic chairs, waiting for the end of polling.

Officials will start counting the ballot papers at 8:00 am on Friday.

Bashir, 71, indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, was virtually unopposed in the race, facing 13 little known challengers and an opposition boycott.

Two presidential candidates pulled out on Wednesday evening after the voting extension was announced, pointing to “irregularities” in the electoral process.

Voting was disrupted in parts of the country by administrative errors and attacks by rebels in the war-torn South Kordofan and Darfur.

A polling station in the Al-Sarif area of “North Darfur was shot at by gunmen and they took some ballot boxes” on Thursday, NEC spokesman Al-Hadi Mohammed Ahmed said at a news conference.

And in South Kordofan, rebels from the Sudan People`s Liberation Army-North “shelled the town of Kadugli, but it did not stop work in polling centres,” he added.

The SPLA-N had vowed to stop the voting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where it has been locked in an insurgency against Bashir`s government since 2011.

It launched several attacks since the beginning of the vote, closing down three polling stations in South Kordofan on Monday, the electoral body said.

Voting was also disrupted in areas of Sudan unaffected by conflict.

An investigative committee said it had found irregularities at a station in the eastern Red Sea State “and it was locked and the perpetrators referred to trial,” the NEC`s Ahmed said on Thursday.

Voting was due to continue across the central Jazira state until 7:00 pm on Friday because of problems delivering ballot papers to 152 stations in the region.

And stations in a district of North Darfur are also opening until Saturday.

Results are expected in late April, but if a single candidate does not get an outright majority, there would have to be a second round.