March 21, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — The leaders of the major opposition parties in Sudan has pushed a memo to the presidency requesting that April elections be postponed until next November in order to allow for major reforms in a number of laws primarily relating national security and media.
The 17 signatories to this letter gave the presidency a week to positively respond else they will meet and decide the next step. They do not include the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) or the Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan Al-Turabi.
"The Political Forces will then hold a joint meeting with the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, no later than a week from the date of submitting its memorandum to the Presidency. The purpose of the meeting will be to study the response of the SPLM and announce its final decision based on the unanimity of the decision by the political parties" the memo reads.
"In the event that the NCP refuses the postponement of elections.......the Political forces will meet to consider: (i) withdrawing their confidence from the National Election Commission; (ii) undertake a decisive stance as regards conducting partial elections in April that are distorted and that lack the minimum fundamental requirements for conducing them freely and fairly. Such a stance will be considered by the Political Forces so as not to participate in the falsification of the will of the Sudanese people and to distance themselves from threats to the stability of Sudan structure by a continuation of the war in Darfur and a return to war in south Sudan".
The parties said that "the political and legal environment in the country are not conducive to conducting free and fair elections". They also cited population census errors and recent directive by the electoral board to delay polls in South Kordofan.
The PCP political secretary Kamal Omer said at a press conference yesterday that his party’s decision to dissent from other opposition parties was caused by failure of Darfur talks in Doha and that running in the elections will expose the fraud committed by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
The SPLM has called on the establishment of the Presidency to call for an immediate dialogue in which all political parties should participate and decide on whether to postpone the general elections in the country scheduled for 11th April.
In a statement published on Sunday by the Southern Sudan-based The Citizen newspaper, the SPLM’s presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, who is contesting against the incumbent President, Omer Hassan Al-Bashir and other ten candidates said the present political atmosphere is unfavorable for conducting free and fair elections.
Fearing for possible rigging of the elections by the NCP, the SPLM expressed annoyance at printing the polling cards in Sudan and criticized the National Elections Commission (NEC) for its failure to block those unfavorable procedures.
Arman lamented that cards have been printed in the local money mint in Khartoum instead of printing them in South Africa, Slovenia and Britain as previously arranged.
The NEC said a bid for printing the voting slips was advertised and two Sudanese companies secured it and that due to time constraints one set of the cards was diverted from a Slovenian company to a Sudanese one stressing that at each step this process was made with the participation of UNMIS elections office.
Arman also said there was need to correct the technical and political flaws in demarcation of constituencies and the population census before his party could decide to participate or not in the elections.
Arman affirmed SPLM’s support for the position of the political forces and alerted that failure to resolve the issues will lead to grave consequences.
The SPLM’s candidate for the national presidency who has this week visited Darfur states expressed his discontent with NCP’s disregard of memoranda raised by the political forces, disclosing that SPLM can decide on either to postpone the elections only after the proposed all-political parties meeting in held.
IGAD’s recent summit in Nairobi, Kenya, and Egyptian government had suggested that both elections and referendum be delayed.
Neighboring Eritrean President, Isaias Afwerki, also advised that elections be postponed and priority be given to the conduct of referendum in the South after which the elections could be conducted at a later date either in a confirmed united Sudan or separately in two different countries.
The NCP has rejected any delay to the elections while the SPLM’s chairman, Salva Kiir, in his response during the IGAD summit warned that if there were to be any delay to the elections the decision would be made in a way that would not affect the conduct of the referendum in January 2011.
"The people of Southern Sudan give more importance to referendum than to the elections and are ready to defend it [referendum] at any cost," he said.
The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) which recently signed a truce with Khartoum has pressed for a postponement to allow people of Darfur and Kordofan to participate. However, some reports indicated that they may have softened their stance.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement today warned that repression of Sudanese opponents and media by Khartoum is threatening the chances of having fair and free elections.
“Conditions in Sudan are not yet conducive for a free, fair, and credible election,” Georgette Gagnon, the US-based rights group’s Africa director, said in a statement.
In the statement, HRW said major areas of concern included “restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression, freedom of the press, and equal access to the media.”
The media crackdown included a decision by the authorities to summon two editors for articles critical of President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. He is standing for re-election despite being wanted for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the conflict-ravaged western Sudanese region of Darfur.
Bashir “is a fugitive from justice. He should be in The Hague answering to charges of heinous crimes committed in Darfur, not flouting Khartoum’s obligations to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.” Gagnon said.
Sudan is set to stage its first multi-party elections in 24 years from April 11 to 13 as part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended a decades-old civil war between north and south.
Below is the text of the letter
The Sudanese Political Forces have unanimously agreed on the importance of reforming all the laws related to freedoms and democratic transformation to conform with the interim constitution as a pre-condition to their participation in the upcoming elections. Of critical importance will be reform of the National Security Act - the Criminal Act - the Criminal Procedures Act - Trade Unions Act - Immunity Law - Family Law - Press & Printed Materials Act - Public Order Acts at the states’ level.
In addition to the condition above, the agreement stated the importance of the following pre-requisites for an inclusive electoral process that is free and fair:
a) Solution to the Darfur Problem
b) The demarcation of boundaries between the North and South
c) A political agreement to address the dispute over the population census
d) Reinstate the independence of the civil service, especially the media. Addressing this by placing them under the supervision of the National Elections Commission, in adequate time before the elections, to ensure equitable distribution of time between the competing parties.
Moreover, the meeting of the Political Forces that took place at the headquarters of the National Umma Party on the 17th of January, 2010, re-iterated the Parties’ conviction that the fundamental requirements for conducting fair and free elections do not exist. The meeting also re-confirmed that the National Elections Commission has shown time and time again lack of managerial, press and media capabilities in addition to it transgressing the Electoral law. As a result of these weaknesses and the commission’s inability to ensure its independence, great distortions in the elections registry have taken place, a matter that the election commission itself could not address in spite of the repeated objections and appeals in this regard. The Political Forces confirmed their insistence on the implementation of the above demands as a pre-requisite for ensuring the fairness and integrity of the elections process even if that entailed its postponement to November, 2010. Inspite of these clear transgressions, the Political Forces continued engaging in the elections process hoping that reform would take place.
More recently, a critically important and decisive meeting was held by the Political Forces at the headquarters of the Original Democratic Unionist Party (Dar AbuJalabia). In his address to the meeting, Sayed Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani called for the importance of correcting the mistakes of the Commission and its transgression of the Election Law. Accordingly, the Political Forces discussed the matter and addressed the Commission informing it of their refusal of its Circular on the Electoral campaign. To this end, a memorandum was delivered and signed by leaders of the Sudanese Political Forces including some of those Presidential candidates running as ‘independents in the election. The memorandum, comprehensive in nature, was delivered on Thursday 4th March in a mass procession. The memorandum included the transgressions committed, to date, by the Commission in addition to the package of reforms required for the elections to be inclusive and fair. The Commission was given one week to respond and on the 11th March, its response came in the form of justifications for its transgressions thus confirming its incompetence and refusal to reform the Registry and the rules of the elections process.
ADMISSION OF ERRORS IN THE POPULATION CENSUS AND THE PARTIAL POSTPONEMENT OF THE ELECTION
Under pressure from the SPLM and fearing the repercussions of their withdrawal from the elections process in Southern Kordofan, the Presidency, decided to postpone the state level executive and legislative elections in that state. The decision was taken without consultation with the National Election Commission and it was announced that the population census would be repeated in the state and the number of geographic constituencies would be increased. By doing so without amending the Electoral Law, the Presidency is tacitly admitting to a faulty census. Moreover, the Presidency has announced its intention to rectify the faulty result in the population census in Southern Sudan through the appointment of a number of forty seats without going through the elections process so as to increase the share of the South in the National Assembly. Such a move is in clear violation of the Electoral Law and the Interim Constitution and would again be without the involvement of the National Elections Commission which is further evidence of the lack of respect for the process of democratic transformation and the unconstitutional nature of the process. It also confirms that the Commission is NOT independent. This was all not accompanied by any practical steps to call on the National Assembly to review the constitution and the accompanying laws – all of which raises suspicion as to the true intentions of the National Congress Party towards that agreement.
On-the-ground experience has proven that the security situation in Darfur is not stable and that it will not be possible to conduct elections there which will reflect the true weight of the Darfurian peoples because registration of voters in the region left out almost 60% – those refugees and internally displaced Darfurians. Moreover, the implications of elections in the Darfur region on the on-going Doha peace talks must be taken into consideration as all the Darfur rebel movements are demanding a postponement. The repercussions of insisting on conducting elections that are partial and unrepresentative of the Darfur people can take the form of a resurgence in violence that will end all efforts to a peaceful solution in the Darfur crisis.
All these reasons combined have led the Sudanese Political Forces to unanimously reconfirm their conditions for participation in the elections. They have, therefore, unanimously agreed on the following:
1) Reconfirm its strong commitment to full, free and fair elections and to conducting the referendum on Southern Sudan’s Right to Self Determination that is to be held in January, 2010 as this is the only peaceful way to end the crisis of governance in the country and to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace and a voluntary unification of the country.
2) Practical experience has shown that (i) the political and legal environment in the country are not conducive to conducting free and fair elections; (ii) the dispute over the population census has led to the postponement of elections in Southern Kordofan and to a reduction in the share of the South in the National Assembly in accordance with the peace agreement; (iii) the shaky state of security in Darfur and continued state of emergency together with renewed violence in the area will greatly hamper, if not, totally stop the elections process in Greater Darfur. This, of course, could hinder the election process and the participation of Darfurians and will reduce the legitimacy of the election process itself.
Accordingly, the Sudanese Political Forces have decided the following:
a) The importance of postponement of the elections from April to the following November to allow for the fulfilment of the conditions necessary for its integrity, fairness and full country coverage. This must also be in line with the political arrangements stated below.
b) In the event that the NCP refuses the postponement of elections and refuses to come to an agreement on political arrangements that will allow for fair and free elections in the whole of the country so as to reflect the true opinion of the Sudanese peoples, the Political forces will meet to consider: (i) withdrawing their confidence from the National Election Commission; (ii) undertake a decisive stance as regards conducting partial elections in April that are distorted and that lack the minimum fundamental requirements for conducing them freely and fairly. Such a stance will be considered by the Political Forces so as not to participate in the falsification of the will of the Sudanese people and to distance themselves from threats to the stability of Sudan structure by a continuation of the war in Darfur and a return to war in south Sudan.
c) The importance of agreement on political arrangements to extract the country from the current crisis and enable it to:
1) Find a just and comprehensive solution to the Darfur cause as well as allow for the participation of its peoples in the elections.
2) Strong commitment to the full implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement particularly those parts related to democratic transformation, the sustainability of peace in the south and voluntary unity. Commitment also to implementation of all the other agreements (Abuja - the East – Cairo – Djibouti) inorder to create the needed conducive political and legal environment for conducting free and fair elections.
3) Review the current Electoral Act with the objective of addressing the gaps and shortcoming that have appeared upon implementation.
4) Form a National Election Commission from persons who are known for their integrity, independence and competence. A Commission that enjoys national consensus and that will correct the mistakes that have accompanied the current electoral process (electoral registry – division of geographical areas).
5) Conduct full elections – free and fair – no later than end of November, 2010 with endorsement of the share of the South being a third (as stated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement) for representation of the South in the National Parliament.
6) Conduct the Referendum on Self Determination as originally planned in
January 2011 as well as public consultations in each of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
• The Political Forces will raise this memorandum, inclusive of its decision, to the Presidency of the Republic.
• The Political Forces will then hold a joint meeting with the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, no later than a week from the date of submitting its memorandum to the Presidency. The purpose of the meeting will be to study the response of the SPLM and announce its final decision based on the unanimity of the decision by the political parties.