The referendum in Sudan is continuing but crossed a key threshold today. Organizers confirmed that the turnout percentage needed for the vote to be considered valid has been reached. Chan Reec, referendum commission deputy chairman, told Al Jazeera news: "At the end of the fourth day of polling, with 86 percent of referendum centers reporting, 2,360,922 people are confirmed to have voted in southern Sudan. This exceeds the 60 percent threshold figure of 2,359,553."
Jimmy Carter, an observer to the referendum along with a 70 member team from the Carter Center, said he expected the vote to meet all of the criteria to be valid. He said, "The likelihood is that the referendum result will be for independence although we won't know until probably the first week of February." The United Nations says preliminary results are expected by February 2, with final results to follow within about two weeks.
The process thus far has been mostly peaceful but there have been reports of violence in Abeyi with as many as 36 killed in clashes in that disputed province. A convoy of residents being taken to the vote was attacked on Monday and 10 were killed.
According to the UN: "If the South votes for independence, the two sides have until the end of June to resolve complex issues affecting the two, according to the 2005 peace agreement, which ended a civil war that killed some two million people and drove an estimated 4.5 million others from their homes. The issues include post-referendum citizenship, residency and labour matters, wealth-sharing, demarcating borders and the future of the oil-rich the Abyei region."
Abyei, which straddles northern and southern Sudan, was meant to hold a referendum on whether to join the North or South concurrent with the independence referendum but that vote has been postponed indefinitely. “A cause for alarm” and potential hotspot for renewed conflict, according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN forces have intensified patrols in Abeyi in response to the unrest there as the referendum continues.