Campus News

April 26, 2010

Report From: The Carter Center

Monitoring Sudan elections as peace benchmark

Deborah Hakes is assistant director, Office of Public Information, The Carter Center

The Carter Center deployed more than 70 observers to monitor Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years, which were held April 11-15. The elections were the most comprehensive in Sudanese history. More than 16.5 million registered to vote — many in Southern Sudan, including the leading presidential candidate, had never voted before in their lifetime.

While the election fell short of international standards, it was an important benchmark in the implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decades-long civil war and outlined steps for a 2011 referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan.

“The success of the elections will depend on whether Sudan’s leaders take action to promote lasting democratic transformation,” says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led the Center’s delegation along with former Algerian Foreign Minister and member of the Elders Lakhdar Brahimi, Justice Joseph Warioba, and Carter Center President and CEO John Hardman. “The limited political opening around the elections should be expanded to ensure respect for Sudan’s constitutional human rights and fundamental freedoms, and leaders from all parties should engage in genuine dialogue to address the key challenges facing Sudan.”

The Carter Center released a 21-page preliminary statement on its observation mission on April 17, which commended the Sudanese people for a generally peaceful polling process and urged that the remaining stages of counting, tabulation and posting of results be carried out transparently and accurately.

The Center’s report also detailed a number of weaknesses in the electoral process, including the use of intimidation by security agents toward voters, candidates, polling staff, party agents, and observers; a lack of transparency needed to verify key steps and build confidence and trust in the process; problems with indelible ink, ballot box seals and the voters’ registry; late delivery of materials; incorrect or insufficient ballots; and a lack of consistency in procedures.

Even before voting began, the process was thrown into doubt when several major parties withdrew from the election in Northern Sudan. While all candidates remained on the ballots, there was little competition in the race for the presidency and reduced competition in other races.

These challenges make the presence of an impartial observation organization such as The Carter Center even more important.

“The Center has now observed 79 elections in 31 countries, nearly all in difficult circumstances. By monitoring and reporting on the elections,
the Center helps to strengthen democratic processes and institutions by providing recommendations for improvements in the future,” says Sarah Johnson, assistant director of The Carter Center’s Democracy Program. “These elections have also created a window of increased political and civic participation that should be capitalized upon.”

The Center’s observers remain deployed to monitor counting, tabulation, and the post-electoral environment.

The Carter Center began assessing the electoral process in 2008 and deployed 12 long-term observers in late-2009, and four additional observers this March. During the voter registration period in November and December 2009, the Center deployed an additional 20 observers, and for April 2010 polling, the Center organized an observation team that monitored the process in all of Sudan’s 25 states.

Learn more about the Carter Center’s work in Sudan at

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