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Bashir aims to extend rule as controversial polls open in Sudan

Polls have opened in Sudan's presidential and parliamentary elections. President Omar al-Bashir, who has been ruling the African state for quarter century, is likely to win the vote due to opposition's boycott.

The voter turnout is expected to be low in the lackluster Sudanese elections. The country's opposition leaders, including the Former Prime Minister Sadiq Al Mahdi, have called on voters to boycott the elections, claiming the vote is illegitimate due to ongoing armed conflicts in the country and unfair unconstitutional reforms.

President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the

International Criminal Court

on genocide charges,

is widely expected win comfortably

.

The election results are expected on April 27.

International criticism

Ahead of the Monday vote, the European Union criticized the Sudanese government for refusing a meeting with the opposition last month to initiate a national dialogue on reconciliation.

Norway, the United States and Britain also said that "an environment conducive to participatory and credible elections does not exist" in Sudan.

Rights groups have accused the Northeast African country's security services of harassing critics in the run-up to the elections.

Economic downturn

In 2011,

South Sudan

separated from the North after decades of civil war. The secession deprived Khartoum of a third of its territory and a large share of oil revenues, forcing President Bashir to embark on austerity measures.

The economic situation sparked massive anti-government protests in September 2013 – the biggest during Bashir's long rule. The crackdown by security forces on protesters killed some 200 people, making the incumbent government more unpopular than ever.

shs/jil (AP, AFP)

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