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Sudan leaders reach agreement on southern independence referendum

[JURIST] Sudanese leaders reached an agreement Sunday for a referendum on independence for the south. The agreement was reached between the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) [party website] of President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) [FAS backgrounder] of Salva Kiir [BBC profile], which comprise the current coalition government created pursuant to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) [UN press release] that ended two decades of civil war. Under the agreement, the south will gain independence [Sudan Tribune report] with a 60 percent voter turnout and a 51 percent yes vote. The NCP had originally sought a two-thirds voter turnout and a 75-90 percent yes vote. The parties also reached an agreement on referendum rules for the oil-rich Abyei region. The referendum is scheduled for 2011.

Under the CPA, Sudan is set to hold its first democratic multi-party elections in almost a quarter of a century, slated for April of next year. Last month, the NCP and the SPLM accused each other [JURIST report] of fraud, torture, intimidation, and sabotage as voters began registering. Last year, the Sudanese parliament approved the appointment of a nine-member independent electoral commission [JURIST report] to oversee the upcoming vote. In July 2008, the parliament passed a long-anticipated electoral law [JURIST report] dictating how the country's parliamentary seats will be allotted. The law reserves some seats for candidates chosen by popular vote, and some for proportional representation of political parties including seats reserved for women. Following the signing of the CPA, the country also approved a new constitution and installed a new government, and the country's state of emergency was lifted [JURIST reports], except in Darfur and a region on the eastern border.

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