JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is unlikely to win outright in April’s first democratic elections in 24 years, forcing a second round of voting, former President Jimmy Carter said on Thursday.
His Carter Center is the only monitoring mission to have followed Sudan’s elections from the outset, but will be joined for the April polling by observer teams from the European Union, the African Union, China and others.
Sudan’s opposition has warned undemocratic laws and widespread fraud will mean the elections will not be free or fair. Most have decided to contest anyway, but some have left the door open to a last-minute boycott.
“If no one gets an absolute majority, then there will be a run-off election in May and I think that’s a high likelihood,” Carter told reporters during a trip to south Sudan.
“We don’t know yet whether al-Bashir can get a majority in the beginning round. If not, which I think is likely, there will be a run-off between him and the second person who gets the most votes,” Carter added.
If no presidential candidate gets the more than 50 percent of votes needed to win, the two top candidates will face off in a second round on May 10-11.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide but the state media machine has portrayed him as a strong man standing against Western intervention.
Many opposition parties have said they would unite behind the candidate against Bashir in a second round vote.
Sudan will be the 77th election Carter’s center has monitored. He said there would be some 22,000 voting booths and around 15,000 candidates for the presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections.
The elections are followed by a southern referendum on independence in January 2011, which most analysts expect to result in secession. Both are benchmarks of a 2005 north-south peace deal which ended more than two decades of civil war.
Reporting by Skye Wheeler, Writing by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Charles Dick