May 13, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has announced withdrawal from contentious elections in Sudan’s central state of south Kordofan over claims of vote-rigging as aggregation of results resumed on Friday in the absence of its agents.
- South Kordofan’s governor candidate, Abdelaziz al-Hilu, speaks to the press after casting his vote during election for governor and regional assembly for the Sudanese oil-producing northern state in Kadugli on May 2, 2011 (Getty Images)
Voting in South Kordofan’s legislative and gubernatorial elections, which took place on May 2 and ended two days later, was largely peaceful despite prior incidents of violence in El-Feid village, where an attack by unknown militias in mid-April left at least 17 people dead and hundreds of houses destroyed.
However, the vote-counting stage was steeped in controversy after the SPLM initially objected to increasing the number of committees handling the process, prompting the Khartoum-based National Elections Commission (NEC), which oversees the exercise, to dispatch a delegation to South Kordofan on 8 May.
NEC delegation brokered a deal to assign three committees to undertake aggregation and review of results forms. But the SPLM later withdrew its agents from the results-aggregation committees, saying it had spotted a “bogus” polling center containing rigged ballot boxes, and demanded that NEC declares results from that center as null and void.
Another delegation from NEC arrived this week in an effort to defuse the crisis, but the SPLM insisted on boycotting the process of results aggregation after NEC refused to discard results of certain polling centers.
In a press conference in the state’s town of Kadugli on Friday, the SPLM’s chairman in the state and candidate in gubernatorial elections, Abdul Aziz Adam al-Hilu, said that it had become “abundantly clear” to his group that NEC was working side by side with its main rival, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), in rigging the results of the elections.
“Therefore, we declare that we will not recognize the elections’ outcome whatsoever, and we will not participate in any legislative or executive authority produced through this vote,” al-Hilu announced, adding that the SPLM would continue boycotting the process of results-aggregation.
The SPLM’s candidate called on other contesting political forces and people of South Kordofan to express democratic and peaceful rejection to what he called the NCP’s infringement on the institutions meant to safeguard transparency.
He also called on the guarantors of peace and the international community to intervene in order to salvage “this anomalous situation.”
Al-Hilu told reporters that the SPLM might resort to the judiciary to appeal against the results if the situation demanded, saying that the elections committee lacks integrity and had become an NCP stooge.
The US-based Carter Center, which is the only international observation mission present in South Kordofan, urged contesting parties and candidates on Tuesday to remain calm and allow the vote-aggregation process to be completed.
Carter Center observers further urged the parties to “seek recourse to potential electoral disputes through established legal channels.”
Elections in the state of South Kordofan, the site of oil-fields and fierce battle during the years of Sudan’s north-south civil war, lagged behind as the country held nationwide elections in April 2010 due to disagreements over the 2008 census and the delimitation of geographic constituencies.
The main contesting parties, the SPLM and NCP, both preempted the announcement of the results, claiming that their candidates in the hotly contested elections of state governor have won.
The two frontrunners in the state governor elections are the SPLM’s candidate Al-Hilu and the NCP’s incumbent governor Ahmad Harun, who happens to be wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes allegedly committed in the country’s western region of Darfur.