November 25, 2009 / 4:29 PM / 10 years ago

Sudan opposition delays election boycott decision

* Opposition delays decision until after vote registration

* Ruling party denies fraud allegations



KHARTOUM, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Sudan’s opposition parties said on Wednesday they would delay a decision on whether to boycott the first multi-party elections in 24 years because of the Muslim Eid holiday and extended voter registration.

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which is the junior partner in the governing coalition, and 20 opposition parties had threatened to boycott the vote if a package of democratic laws were not passed by Nov. 30, showing a rare united front.

They accuse the dominant National Congress Party (NCP) of widespread fraud including vote-buying and intimidation as Sudanese registered for next year’s election, which the party denies.

"On Nov. 30...the parties will meet and ...decide on a date and venue for the (party) summit before which we will put our reports on whether they boycott or not," said opposition alliance official Farouk Abu Eissa.

Senior SPLM official Yasir Arman told reporters the meeting would happen after the electoral registration period which had been due to end on Nov. 30 but which was extended for almost a week. The joint news conference gave no new date.

Because of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival, Sudan will be on holiday for five days beginning on Thursday, making any decision on a boycott by Nov. 30 impossible, the parties said.

The SPLM and NCP signed a 2005 peace deal sharing wealth and power and ensuring democratic transformation in Africa’s largest country. But accusations of backtracking and delays from both parties mean relations are at their lowest since the end of the two-decade civil war, analysts say.

With just over four months until the first democratic vote in almost quarter of a century, changes in the criminal code and reform of Sudan’s powerful intelligence services are long overdue and necessary before the vote, the opposition says.

Sudan’s north-south civil war was fuelled by issues including religion, ethnicity, oil and ideology between mostly Christian southern rebels and the Islamist Khartoum government. (Reporting by Opheera McDoom, editing by Mark Trevelyan) ((Khartoum newsroom; +249 912 167 378; opheera.mcdoom@thomsonreuters.com))

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