Sudan's Islamist military leader Omar al-Beshir shrugged off a massive opposition boycott of presidential and parliamentary elections as he cast his vote at a polling station Wednesday.
The right to "boycott is part of the freedom" enjoyed in Sudan, Beshir told journalists and supporters surrounding him at a polling area at the Railway Workers Club in Sudan's dusty capital of Khartoum.
But political parties were unjustified in their complaints, because a new constitution was adopted two and a half years ago ensuring both freedom of expression and political association, Beshir, 57, said.
That period, he continued, has been "sufficient for any political group serious about taking part in the electoral and democratic process to prepare itself for these elections."
All Sudan's main opposition parties were boycotting the vote, protesting that Beshir's "totalitarian regime," which seized power in a 1989 military coup, had no mandate to rule or organize elections.
Some Sudanese also remarked that the campaign was unusually lackluster -- without the noise and color created by competing supporters shouting through loudspeakers and waving banners.
"That's your opinion," Beshir told an AFP reporter who asked him to comment on Sudanese who remarked there was little interest in the elections.
Beshir arrived at the polling station after emerging from his black limousine wearing traditional Sudanese white robes and turban and walking over a rubble-strewn building site, often pointing his cane in the air.
Bodyguards wearing dark green military uniforms pushed away journalists and others who got to close.
He was greeted by two flanks of dozens of supporters shouting "Allahu Akbar," or God is Greatest, and pointing an index finger skyward, with Beshir giving them an identical response.
He told them: "Today we enter a new phase in the life of the salvation" government that took power eleven years ago with the aid of Islamists.
After about five or ten minutes Beshir left the scene, accompanied by two cars filled with security forces -- KHARTOUM (AFP)
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