First day of south Sudan referendum ends peacefully

January 10, 2011 - 0:0

TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- The first day of the referendum on self-determination in southern Sudan ended on Sunday, with no problems reported.

Polling stations in 10 states in southern Sudan, as well as polling stations in the north of the country, closed at 1400 GMT, RIA Novosti reported.
The south Sudanese are voting in a referendum asking them if they wish to remain in a unified state or secede from the north to create a new country.
The elections are being monitored by more than 20,000 observers and over 1,000 journalists from around the world.
“Election committees from around the world should study the experience of the Sudanese commission on holding the referendum,” the head of Russia’s observer delegation, Senator Aslanbek Aslakhanov, told RIA Novosti.
The results of the referendum will be announced after the voting ends on January 15.
Russian Senator Vladimir Zhidkikh, who has participated in over 20 electoral processes around the world, said it would be difficult to complain about the illegitimacy of the elections to the Sudanese governments as everything was well organized.
“The technology in holding the polls does not bring about any doubts, the participants in the referendum have a complete stack of accompanying documents (to the referendum), and the process of voting is clear to even those who cannot read or write,” Zhidkikh said.
Nearly four million people in Africa’s largest country are registered to vote.
They’re being asked to mark a simple illustrated ballot, showing a single hand and the word “separation,” as well as two hands clasped together with the word “unity,” CBC reported.
The referendum is the result of a peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the north and the south.
Thousands of Sudanese lined up through the night to be among the first to vote in the weeklong poll.
Observers include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who joined former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as the pair talked to reporters at a polling station in Juba.
Annan said he’s confident people who were once enemies will be able to live in peace.