September 23, 2013 (KUACJOK, Warrap State) - South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir has expressed uncertainty over whether the new nation’s first general elections since independence will be held on schedule in 2015.
- Salva Kiir casts his vote in the 2010 elections.
The nascent country’s last elections were held in April 2010 when the region was an autonomous part of Sudan as part of a 2005 peace deal with the Khartoum government.
The SPLM, the former-rebel-group-turned-ruling-party, which is led by Kiir won a landslide victory, solidifying their control of South Sudanese politics ahead of the vote for independence the following year.
Since secession, however, the SPLM has been hit by in-fighting and corruption scandals. Meanwhile the country battled against insecurity and humanitarian emergencies, as well as an economic crisis caused by a dispute with neighbouring Sudan over oil transit fees.
Speaking at the Warrap state parliament on Monday, the president cited lack of funds to conduct the census and completion of the new constitution as reasons that could delay the poll. The successful conduct of the 2015 elections is seen by many as essential for South Sudan is to emerge as a democracy.
“Elections may not be held on time because there are certain issues which must be carried out first. Census needs to be conducted. There is also a need to complete drafting the permanent constitution so that it is passed by the national legislative assembly. These processes require time and resources”, said Kiir.
His comments have affirmed fears among Kiir’s critics that he intends to delay the election in order to prolong his grip on power.
In recent weeks Kiir has acted against potential rivals for his position as the chairperson of the SPLM. In August he removed his vice president Riek Machar who had begun to openly campaign for the position and replaced him with loyalist James Wani Igga.
Machar has maintained his position as the SPLM’s deputy chair, but the party’s secretary general Pagan Amum has been suspended, reportedly with restrictions against travel and speaking to the media, while he is investigated for criticising Kiir’s leadership.
The governor of Unity state, Taban Deng Gai, was also recently replaced among allegations - which he denied - that he was planning to back Machar’s bid to oust Kiir as the SPLM chairperson and therefore the party’s candidate for the 2015 elections.
Kiir’s comments casting further doubt over the timely conduct of the election appear to contrast with the deputy chairperson of the National Elections Commission, Jerisa Kide Barsaba, who said last week that the 2015 general elections will be held as planned.
"Although there are some challenges facing the commission the vote will be held as scheduled", she said.
"Article 100 of the transitional constitution says that the tenure of the president starts from 9 July 2011 to 9 July 2015, so it means elections must be before that," Barsaba clarified.
"On 9 July 2015, a new government must be in place. Still with the help of the international community and our government, I am sure we will manage to run elections in 2015."
Barsaba cited Iraq and Liberia as some of the countries that have conducted elections without a census and said that South Sudan will likely do the same.
There have been growing concerns there could be a delay in the vote, after the chairman National Bureau of Statistics, Isaiah Chol Aruai, said the possibility of holding a census in 2014 was unlikely.