January 2, 2010 (KHARTOUM) – The Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Islamist opposition figure Hassan Al-Turabi formally announced today that it has nominated a Southerner to run in the April 2010 presidential elections.
Al-Turabi told reporters in the Sudanese capital that the decision to nominate the party’s deputy Abdullah Deng Nhial was reached by the majority (76%) as an “expression to address the conscience of a large sector of southerners and northerners”.
He added that the biggest crisis facing Sudan is the North-South one and thus putting forward a candidate from the Dinka tribe, the largest tribe in the south, could bring an end to beliefs that there is marginalization because major posts are limited to Northerners.
So far only the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), which nominated President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, has decided on its candidate for the presidential elections. The other major parties including the Umma party led by former Prime Minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani and Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM) led by First Vice President Salva Kiir has yet to name a contestant.
The SPLM, PCP, Umma party and other smaller opposition parties that met in Juba last September have said in the past that they may decide on one joint candidate to run against Bashir. It is not clear if each party will nominate one figure and later the coalition will meet to decide on a joint candidate among them.
The SPLM spokesperson Yen Mathew, who welcomed Nhial’s nomination, told the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV that the ex-southern rebel group will meet next Thursday to nominate its presidential candidate.
Al-Jazeera website said that Nhial was a professor in Juba University in 1985 then a minister of Guidance and Endowments following the 1989 coup, a minister for peace and reconstruction, the White Nile governor in 1994 before siding with Turabi in his 1999 major fallout with Bashir.
He told Al-Jazeera TV that his nomination came as a surprise to the Sudanese people given his ethnicity stressing that running for president is open to anyone interested “regardless of any consideration” which would enable Southerners to reach the highest positions in the government.
Nhial added that the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) did nothing to Southerners except give them the post of First Vice President currently held by Salva Kiir.
In today’s press conference Turabi slammed the Sudanese National Elections Commission (NEC) suggesting that it is controlled by the ruling NCP. The PCP leader did not rule out the possibility of fraud in the April 2010 elections but said its likely to be concentrated in the outskirts of the country.
This week, Turabi reiterated his call to Bashir to hand himself over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which charged him with committing war crimes in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.