Major voting problems widely reported in South Sudan
Journalists throughout the ten states of Southern Sudan reported confusion, delays, a shooting, and some cases of intimidation and arrests. Some of the most significant problems were attributed to the National Elections Commission for belatedly delivering equipment, and for providing incorrect voter registries. For now the situation appears calm and there is no widespread violence. Numerous poll workers, political agents and government officials said that registries had omissions, ballot boxes never arrived, or ballots came late or had errors, according to the Sudan Tribune website, Gurtong Trust, and Sudan Radio Service (SRS).
In many places there was frustration. A woman identified as Victoria told Gurtong at Makuach polling centre in Jonglei, “I voted in the first two boxes and left because people were quarrelling over me to tick their preferred candidate, hence making my vote no longer my secret.”
Registered voters turned away
One of the most widely reported problems is that voters are being turned away from the stations where they had registered because their names no longer appear on the registry. In Wau, caretaker governor Kon Ugwak found his name missing from the list of registered voters at the station where he was supposed to vote. The name of the candidate for the governorship of Western Bahr el-Ghazal, Ayuel Longar, was also missing. The Vice President of Southern Sudan, Riek Machar, had to go to five different polling stations on Sunday before finding his name on a list.
Similar reports came from Central Equatoria State, Jonglei State, Upper Nile State, and Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. There could be a number of reasons why the registries reportedly have so many omissions. One election official in Abyei explained that he and other officials made changes to the registration list at one station because there were 4,000 people registered there. So the poll workers decided to send some names to different centers in the area. In other cases the names may be correct but the voters themselves cannot locate them because they are illiterate. An SRS reporter in Wau explained that illiterate voters sought help to find their name on the registry: “They haven’t been able to find their names and it’s now a big mess.”
Gurtong reporters said that they found people complaining of missing names in constituencies that they surveyed in both Juba and Bor. The reporter in Juba said that such complaints could be heard at “most polling stations.”
“We were registered at Jarwoong area in Toch, but now we don’t know where to vote after checking our names in three polling centres and failed”, a distraught voter named Deng Mayen told Gurtong.
Polling in Western Bahr el-Ghazal has been slow and turnout is low, the governor of the state told SRS. Voter turnout in most areas in Malakal was poor even into the second day, SRS reporter Hussein Halfawi observed. A Sudan Tribune reporter in Yambio said that on both Sunday and Monday, polling centers did not open until midday. He said disappointed would-be voters left, especially elderly people. In at least one of the counties of Lakes state, mainly women were voting because the local young men had been involved in recent clashes with SPLA and feared to show up at the polling sites.
Arrests and intimidation
The only violence reported was a non-fatal shooting in Northern Bahr El Ghazal. At a polling station there on Monday, police allegedly acting on orders of a county commissioner shot a political agent. General Dau Aturjong Nyuol, independent candidate for governor, told Sudan Tribune that one of his agents sustained a serious leg injury.
But there were other complaints from diverse sources about cases of arrests or intimidation. There were reports of intimidation and heavy presence of security personnel at polling stations in Western Equatoria. And in Central Equatoria, a member of the state elections committee, Alphayo Philip, told SRS that the arrest of polling staff contributed to the late opening of polling stations in Al Shabab polling center in Nimra Talata, Home and Away polling center, and Juba Nabari polling center: “Three-quarters of polling stations in Juba opened on time but the remaining quarter could not open because security personnel interfered with our work and arrested our polling staff who were carrying some of the polling materials. They kept our staff for a long time and we looked for the polling staff but could not find them and the centers were crippled until about midday. At last they were brought back by the security personnel later in the day after impounding their mobile phones.”
Similarly, a poll worker was arrested in Northern Bahr El Ghazal after SPLM agents accused him of ticking ballots in favor of other political parties. The independent gubernatorial candidate in the state, General Dau Aturjong Nyuol, complained that a number of his agents in two counties were arrested without charge, according to Sudan Tribune.
Fifty observers of the National Elections Commission who had arrived to Juba and Malakal from North Sudan reportedly faced obstruction. One of the observers, Sheibuub Abdel-Wahab Mohamed, explained to SRS: “We have been barred from executing our duties.”
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