Elections Battle Puts Sudan At Crossroads!
KHARTOUM, April 1st, (World Pulse) The Umma, Umma Reform and Renovation, Unionist Democratic and Communist parties are the four major opposing parties that have announced today their boycott of the multi-party presidency elections - the first elections held in 24 years. Withdrawn candidates are veteran leaders mentioned successively: Al Sadiq Al Mahdi, Mubarak Al Fadil, Hatim al - Sir and Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud. They have joined the SPLM’s candidate Yassir Arman in boycotting the voting. Yassir’s party withdrew him yesterday evening.
The Umma, Communist and Unionist Democratic parties are the major and traditional parties with majority voters. Their withdrawal opens the door to Al Bashir, sitting president, to a hollow victory but far from legitimizing his situation or opening the doors to the 111 state signatories of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to his official visits or sending away the specter warrant arrest issued last year by it - over genocide and war crimes committed against Darfur civilians during the war..
Democratic Unionist Party, Sudanese National Alliance, Popular Congress Party (PCP), and 5 independent candidates said would be participating in the voting due 11-13 April.
With the exception of the PCP which nominated a Muslim Southerner to run the presidential race, Bashir willn't have a seemingly competition. PCP founded by Al Turabi, guardian of the Islamic movement in Sudan, in 1999 after haggling and separation from Bashir’s party.
Opposition decision to pull candidates came after meeting in Khartoum to consider boycotting the polls. Hours earlier they held a meeting with Scott Gration, a US senior official Envoy who came to hold crisis talks in Khartoum after the withdrawal of main opposition candidate out of April's election. Gration suggested commitment to schedule time to save the election process.
The opposition cited overwhelming government control of the media and election monitoring committee as well as biased legislation that make a fair vote impossible and incredible. Having their protests ignored, they quit following the example of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, who preceded them and announced on Wednesday that its presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, wouldn’t continue the presidency competition April 11-13. Arman was key rival to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP)'s Candidate, Omer Al Bashir.
SPLM nominated Arman for the candidacy of the polls on January 14 this year. His withdrawal decision was reached in Juba, the Southern Sudan’s capital, during the party’s Political Bureau extraordinary meeting which took place yesterday.
Dr. Riek Machar vice-chairman of the SPLM who announced the decision from Khartoum, had given two reasons for desertion. “Because of the continuing conflict in Darfur region and elections irregularities, we decided that Yasir should end his campaign for the presidency of the Republic". The surprise decision angered the folks who see in Arman a key to "new Sudan" and "change".
Withdrawing Arman, has spared Bashir second round of elections and guaranteed him overwhelming winning and governing for the coming four years.
The government welcomed the SPLM’s decision which had ardently sought and accused the opposing boycotting parties as of being American agents.
Yassir, who is in his early fifties, is a Muslim Northerner and member of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement’s Political Bureau, and head of the SPLM parliamentary bloc at National Council. He is one of the youth who has spent more than 21 years involved in a 22-year civil war with the Sudanese government. His social background makes of him a key symbol to carry out the SPLM slogans of “Hope and change” and new Sudan. His electoral campaigns have shown people’s eagerness to a Sudan where ethnicities and diversity are taken into account and that they are treated accordingly. He spent more than 21 years fighting under the umbrella of the SPLM movement, which was founded in 1983. Arman is married to a southern lady and they have two daughters: one is 15-years-old and the other is 12-years-old.
Al Bashir who came to power two decades ago, following a pacific cout d’etat, governs Sudan with an iron fist and fire. He sees elections as a lifeline from the ICC and believes that this however will enable him to escape international isolation. He threatens everyone who asks for delaying or boycotting or raising the issue of fraud elections’ cards.
Worth mentioning is The Carter Centre, the only international long-term observer mission in Sudan and the International Crisis Group, were both in favor of the delay. The Carter Center commented that a short delay might be necessary to solve the logistics, including hundreds of thousands of missing names on the electoral register.
The opposition which described elections process undertaken in such circumstances as a “farce,” wants the poll postponed until November, citing a continued conflict in Darfur where emergency law is implemented and the seven-year clashes are still going on. They also complain about the wide spread of unresolved irregularities prior to and during voters’ registration.
On the other hand, western opposition factions were in favor of delay and has described insistence of going ahead with elections as a disaster for the country. Khalil Ibrahim, leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (GEM), the largest armed group in Darfur, said yesterday to Al Jazeera Qatar-based channel that a large number of voters will be deprived of taking part in the poll.
"These elections are based mainly on false senses, especially in Darfur. Masses of populations ... will be excluded from the elections," he said adding that "Especially the nomads - they can not participate in these elections. So we are calling for the delaying of this and we want to accelerate the peace process first."
Arman asserted in televised speech aired two days ago these claims and added that authority regulations forbade displaced people from camps around Nyala, in western Sudan, from attending his campaign or the speech he gave during his visit to the region.
Escalation of the Sudanese electoral crisis dates back to last week when the Juba Coalition(opposition) requested Salva Kiir SPLM chairman and partner in the coalition government since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA), in Naivasha, Kenya in 2005, to raise to the government a request of elections postponement to next November of this year. The Sudanese presidency rejected the offer and threatened to postpone the referendum, which due in January 2011.
The referendum has become a matter of bargaining. Al Bashir threatened two days ago to use the referendum card if the Liberation People’s Movement joined the opposition parties in their call for the delay or boycotting of the elections. For the SPLM this issue is a red line that is considered one of its biggest achievement to have its independent state in case unity wasn't made "attractive" as CPA says.
Prior to that, Sudanese opposition parties asked for a delay because of allegations over biases by the National Election Committee (NEC) to the NCP ruling party and, “Asked in vain, for reforms to be undertaken in a number of laws primarily relating to national security and media”. Instead they have been accused of being satellites to the West.
It's worth mentioning that Sudan is the biggest country in Africa where more than five hundred local languages are used in communication besides Arabic and English. Instability threatens unity of the country as well as social texture.
Southern Sudan area is 597 000 km². Population – Total (2005) – Density 11 million est. 8500000, as well as natural richness in pasture, 8 months of rainfall as well as minerals. It shares borders with 5 African countries.