Sudanese across Africa’s largest country voted on Sunday in their first competitive elections in nearly a quarter century despite partial boycotts by the opposition and calls to delay the vote.

In Khartoum, turnout was lighter than expected in the first few hours of voting, aside from a few enthusiastic supporters of President Omar al-Bashir. Security was tight around polling stations and trucks loaded with uniformed security were deployed around the capital.

The elections, which will run through Tuesday, are an essential part of a 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south war that killed 2 million people over 21 years. They are designed to kick-start a democratic transformation in the war-plagued nation and provide a democratically elected government to prepare for a crucial southern referendum next year.

But two major political parties, including the southerners, decided to pull out fully or partially from the race, saying the process lacked credibility and was flawed from the start.

They called for a delay of the vote to address their concerns. The government refused.

Many of Sudan’s 16 million registered voters, especially in the south where the war raged, have never experience competitive elections before.

“I have never voted in my life,” South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said after casting his vote in a polling station in Juba, the southern capital. Mr. Kiir arrived exactly at opening time, but the voting station was not yet open and he had to wait outside for nearly an hour before he could cast his vote.

Mr. Kiir said he wished these elections laid the ground work for democracy in the country where military coups have been recurrent.

Sudan’s President al-Bashir, who came to power in a military coup in 1989, also cast his vote in Khartoum. It is the first time he is running for re-election in a multiparty race.

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