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Sudan sets timetable for southern referendum

media Students rally calling for support for unity between south and north Sudan … Reuters

Sudan has set 14 November as the beginning of voter registration for the upcoming Southern Sudan referendum, amid international concerns about the amount of time left to organise the vote.

The registration will be carried out for three weeks until 4 December, ahead of a referendum scheduled on 9 January. Southern Sudan is to decide whether it wants to remain with Khartoum or become independent.

Critics however say there is little time left to organise the vote.

Wasil Ali, an editor at the Sudan Tribune 06/10/2010 - by Laura Angela Bagnetto Listen

Sudan Tribune editor Wasil Ali says he thinks it is unlikely the authorities will be able to register all the voters, publish their names and process legal challenges to the register in time. “The challenge process cannot take less than a month, so you are adding another layer of procedures,” he told RFI. “I do not see how all these steps can be done between 15 November and 9 January.”

Ali says voter eligibility is a very thorny issue, as the referendum law says non-residents can vote if they can prove that they belong to a southern Sudanese tribe. Deciding who will be eligible to vote will be extremely difficult, says Ali.

Chan Reec, the deputy chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, however says he is confident the vote will go ahead even if there are “unseen reasons” that delay it. “You can see we will have no Christmas this year, because we will be working.”

The president of the south’s autonomous regional government Salva Kiir says that the 9 January date is “sacrosanct” and non-negotiable. Western diplomats have warned that if the vote does not go ahead on schedule, southern leaders might declare independence unilaterally, potentially triggering a new civil war.

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