Organizers of southern Sudan’s independence referendum say they are “100 percent prepared” for the vote, to be held this coming Sunday.
A top official on the referendum commission, Chan Reec, said Monday that nearly 4 million people are registered to vote. Reec said the vast majority of voters are southern residents, with small percentages living in northern Sudan or abroad.
He said the distribution of ballots is almost complete, and that the election will go forward despite an absence of promised funding from Sudan’s national government.
Earlier, a prominent member of Sudan’s ruling party said President Omar al-Bashir will visit the south on Tuesday.
Rabie Abdelati Obeid said the president will ensure that preparations for the vote have been made, and will meet with southern leaders to discuss ways of ensuring the poll will be free, transparent and fair.
Obeid said Mr. Bashir’s visit will demonstrate the government’s commitment to good relations with the south, even if the south chooses to secede.
In a speech on Friday, Mr. Bashir said his government is “fully prepared” for the vote and will accept its results.
The referendum is a key part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two decades of civil war between northern and southern Sudan. Most people expect the oil-rich, mainly Christian south to vote for independence from the Muslim north.
Tension between the north and south has been running high ahead of the poll, amid continuing disputes over borders, oil revenue and the fate of the oil-producing Abyei region.
Several groups have petitioned Sudan’s constitutional court to dissolve the referendum commission, citing alleged fraud and intimidation during the recent voter registration process. The court is expected to issue a decision this week.