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World

Sudan calls first general election in 24 years

Sudan has announced plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in February 2010. The vote will be the first democratic national election staged in the African country in more than 20 years.

Sudanese supporters of President Omar al-Bashir shout slogans as they carry his poster

Bashir's rule will be challenged next year

"The electoral process starts this April and will finish in February 2010," Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, deputy head of the electoral commission, told news agency AFP.

The Sudanese people will elect a president, the head of the semi-autonomous south, the national assembly and the south Sudanese parliament and local governors.

According to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended over two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan, elections were to have taken place this year.

However, a UN panel of experts suggested at the end of last year that Sudan delay the elections by at least four months because of expected heavy rains and logistical problems.

Party officials welcomed the decision despite a lack of coordination.

"We are welcoming the decision and we respect the decision of the commission, but they did not negotiate with us the timetable," Ibrahim Gandur, a senior official of incumbent President Omar al-Bashir's ruling National Congress Party (NCP) told AFP.

"There is enough time for transparent elections, and it can be monitored by (local monitors) and foreigners," he said.

Sudan's last general election, held in April 1986, was won by the Umma party of Sadiq al-Mehdi. His government was overthrown in the bloodless coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989 .

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