NAIROBI/KHARTOUM Sudanese President Omar al—Bashir, wanted over allegations of war crimes in Darfur, has won the country’s first multiparty elections in 24 years, election officials said Monday.

The polls are supposed to usher in a new era of democracy in Sudan, which is recovering from a decades—long civil war between the north and south.

However, they were marred by an opposition boycott, allegations of fraud and logistical problems that delayed the result by almost a week.

The president, who seized power in a bloodless 1989 coup, received 68 per cent of the vote, the National Election Commission (NEC) said.

Former southern rebel Salva Kiir was confirmed in his position as leader of the autonomous Southern Sudan.

Mr. Al—Bashir’s National Congress Party (NCP) is expected to interpret the victory as a vindication of the leader, who is the only sitting president wanted by the International Criminal Court.

However, the damaged credibility of the poll is expected to weaken this stance.

Mr. Al—Bashir’s two main opponents boycotted the polls, saying they were rigged, and observers from the European Union and US—based Carter Centre said the elections were not up to international standards.

Results were due on Tuesday, but were delayed by logistical problems in Africa’s biggest country, raising further fears the election was being fixed.

The poll was largely peaceful, but there were clashes over grazing rights between the southern Army and Arab tribesmen from the restive Darfur province in the days leading up to the results. Over 50 people were killed and around 80 injured in the clashes.

Analysts say the election aftermath could impact on a January 2011 referendum on independence for Southern Sudan, which was agreed upon in the 2005 peace deal that ended the war between the mainly Muslim north and Christian and Animist South.

Mr. Al—Bashir, who has previously said he would abide by the result of the referendum, threatened to cancel the referendum due to the opposition boycotts.

Analysts feel he is unlikely to make good on that threat, but there are concerns that trouble could break out along the north—south border in the likely event that Southern Sudan votes for independence.

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