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NAIROBI - Sudan's incumbent president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, handily won the country's first multiparty election in more than 20 years, according to results released on Monday, offering a glimpse into the kind of lopsided contests that might continue if the nation splits in two next year as expected.
Al-Bashir received 68 percent of the vote, though many international observers said the election was marred by intimidation, gerrymandering and fraud. Right before the voting started in mid-April several of the top opposition parties abruptly dropped out of the race, clearing a path for al-Bashir.
In southern Sudan, which is preparing to vote on whether to split from the north and become its own country, the incumbent there, Salva Kiir, prevailed as well, winning 93 percent of the vote to remain president of that semiautonomous region.
The results were neither surprising nor evidence of a sudden blossoming of democracy. But that does not necessarily mean the election was insignificant. It was essentially Step 1 of what could be a very messy divorce.
Southern Sudan is expected to secede next year from Sudan, which could bring turbulence to the largest country in Africa. The southern Sudanese, who are mostly Christian and animist, have been chafing for independence.