POLLING day 'WASTED'

KHARTOUM - Sudan's first multiparty elections in two decades went into a second day yesterday after a chaotic start that saw former southern rebels crying foul and electoral officials acknowledging "mistakes".

KHARTOUM - Sudan's first multiparty elections in two decades went into a second day yesterday after a chaotic start that saw former southern rebels crying foul and electoral officials acknowledging "mistakes".

Queues - one for men, one for women - formed in stifling heat at voting stations in central Khartoum yesterday before polling began at 8am, while cars arrived bringing even more voters.

On Sunday's first day of voting, many polling stations opened late as officials awaited delivery of ballot papers or received the wrong material, angering voters and in some case sparking scuffles, witnesses said.

But the police said there had been no reports of major violence linked to the ballot in Africa's largest country.

The avalanche of complaints linked to voting procedures compounded question marks about the credibility of an election from which key candidates had already withdrawn ahead of polling day citing fraud.

The three-day polling process had always threatened to be difficult with voters, may of them illiterate, having to contend with ballots for simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, state and southern regional elections.

But the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the southern former rebels, described the first day of polling as "wasted" due to a raft of procedural problems and demanded the vote be extended from three to seven days.

"There have been a lot of irregularities that we have noticed," said Samson Kwaje, campaign manager for SPLM leader Salva Kiir on Sunday.

"Today was a wasted day. We are seriously sending a protest to the NEC," the National Election Commission, he added.

Kwaje said the irregularities included polling stations opening late, wrong ballot boxes in the wrong places and ballot boxes going missing.

The NEC acknowledged there had been "mistakes" in distributing ballot papers in some areas but made no comment on the possibility of prolonging the election. - Sapa-AFP

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