Another blow to sudan election

KHARTOUM - Sudan's opposition Umma party has announced a boycott of the country's first multiparty elections since 1986 on Sunday, dealing a fresh blow to the credibility of the poll.

The standing of the three-day elections had already been weakened by the decision on Tuesday of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to widen its boycott of the vote.

And Wednesday's decision by the Umma party came hours after European Union (EU) election monitors announced they were pulling out of the war-torn western region of Darfur - citing security concerns.

Sarah Nugdalla, head of Umma's political bureau, broke the news after a party meeting in Omdurman, across the River Nile from Khartoum.

"We have decided to boycott the electoral process at all levels," Nugdalla said. Umma was among a group of opposition parties that had given the Sudanese government four days from April 2 to implement key reforms in return for a pledge to take part in the elections that would be pushed back to May.

"The political bureau discussed the issue over the past two days ... In the end, we came to the conclusion that our conditions for postponing the elections had not been accepted," said Nugdalla.

Umma won the previous legislative elections in 1986, only to be removed from power later by current president Omar al-Bashir. On Wednesday, the EU head of mission Veronique de Keyser said she and a six-strong team of observers were quitting Darfur.

"It's always sad to leave this region, which is such a poor region, but I really knew when I came that to observe elections here it's impossible in a credible way," she told reporters on the plane.

Between Sunday and Tuesday, Sudan will hold its first multiparty election since 1986 including presidential, legislative and local polls.

The vote is a prelude to a referendum on southern independence scheduled for January 2011. - Sapa-AFP