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Fears Sudan elections offer no true competition

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March 30, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – The argument over the elections in Sudan is still ongoing between the government and the opposition, less than two weeks away from the polls on 13 April.

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Sudanese check their names on lists outside a polling station to vote for Sudan’s first multiparty elections in decades in Khartoum on 11 April 2010 (AP)

Most major opposition parties have refused to participate in the elections and called for delaying it until after the formation of a transitional government that would oversee a new constitution and organise for fair and free elections.

They also contend that ruling National Congress Party (NCP) holds absolute control over power and state resources while also refusing to make any compromises to end the country’s ongoing civil war or allowing public liberties.

The NCP however, rejects these calls saying that elections are a constitutional requirement and that a timeframe must be set and honoured.

In the absence of heavyweight or recognisable presidential candidates, Sudanese voters could hardly make out any of the names among the 16 nominees except incumbent NCP candidate president Omer Hassan al-Bashir.

Likewise, the NCP is not facing serious competition in the national and state elections with handful of its candidates already declared winners of their parliamentary seats by acclamation.

SCoP QUESTIONS CENSUS

The leader of the opposition Sudanese Congress Party (SCoP), Ibrahim al-Sheikh, said they decided to boycott elections for several principled and strategic reasons.

He questioned, in a symposium in the town of Rabak in White Nile state this week, the credibility of the census upon which the elections will take place saying the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) refused to recognise it in the 2010 elections.

Al-Sheikh also said that opposition forces have not participated in the drafting of the elections law, stressing that it was designed by the NCP and passed by its parliament.

“This elections is dangerous and [we] will not allow it to be held,” he said.

The SCoP was among the opposition forces which refused to join the government-led national dialogue.

STATE’S INSTITUTIONS BIASED: SCP

The Secretary General of the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), Mohamed Mokhtar al-Khateeb, said in an interview with the Awal al-Nahar daily that the state’s organs and institutions are controlled by the NCP.

“The regular forces and the judiciary are not independent. The National Elections Commission (NEC) has been set up by the regime which also controls the media and hence elections will be rigged,” he said.

He pointed to large numbers of refugees and IDPs in the camps, saying they won’t be able to take part in the elections as long as the war is ongoing.

“The regime is controlling the entire levers of the state as well as the security apparatus. It also escalates the war [in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile],” he added.

Al-Khateeb said in a previous interview last December that the atmosphere is not conducive for holding elections due to absence of democracy and freedoms.

The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) continued to crack down on the SCP mouthpiece al-Midan.

Political parties are also prevented from holding symposiums in public squares unless they obtain a police permission. They are only allowed to conduct their activities inside their headquarters which even then gets blocked by NISS on many occasions.

FEARS OF ELECTION RIGGING

The leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, said in statements last November that they decided to boycott elections because the regime has already prepared to rig it.

“We see that political reform begins by the removal of the regime,” he added.

NUP suspended its participation in the national dialogue in May 2014 following arrest of al-Mahdi, and called for elections to be suspended in order to create the right political environment for the conduct of the process and to include rebel groups.

NUP deputy chairman, Fadl Allah Burma Nasser, briefed a visiting Arab League delegation this month on the reasons behind their decision to boycott the elections.

He told the delegation that the country is currently not ready for any democratic action due to the ongoing war in seven states, stressing that people in these states wouldn’t get the opportunity to vote or express their views.

Burma also emphasised that the elections which the NCP insists on holding in April do not meet the minimum requirements for fair and transparent, saying that polls could not be held in the absence of consensual constitution and law and under control of a single party which competes against itself.

POLITICAL STABILITY FIRST: RNM

The Reform Now Movement (RNM) led by Ghazi Salah al-Din al-Attabani which recently joined opposition ranks demands achieving political stability in the country before holding elections.

Al-Attabani said during the launch of his party’s poll boycott campaign that they decided to boycott elections for ten reasons including political instability, continuation of war in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile besides lack of freedoms.

He underscored that elections cannot be held while war is ongoing, disclosing that they will coordinate with other political forces to secure the success of the poll boycott campaigns.

Last month, the RNM launched a campaign under the slogan “Together against forging the national will” to boycott the elections.

RNM split from the NCP in late 2013 over calls for reforms, transparency and democratic changes.

The movement last January decided to suspend participation in the government-led national dialogue until the requirements of a conducive environment are met.

PCP: CLOSE TO DIALOGUE BUT FAR FROM ELECTIONS

The Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan al-Turabi decided to continue in the government-led national dialogue but refused to join April’s elections.

The Islamist party split from the NCP since 1999 and was strong in its opposition to the government during the past 13 years.

However, Turabi’s stance towards Bashir’s regime gradually changed from backing Darfur rebel groups to a supporter of a negotiated settlement since January 2014 when the government launched the national dialogue initiative.

The PCP is the only major opposition party that didn’t suspend its participation in the national dialogue and continues to plead the process.

It only supports the national dialogue process but agrees with the opposition forces in their calls for confidence building measures and the need to suspend the electoral process.

It threatened to dismiss any party member who seeks nomination at regional or national levels.

PCP political secretary said last October they will boycott elections pointing that lack of democracy would not allow holding of fair elections.

“Holding of elections under these circumstances is considered a catastrophe,” he said.

He said the national dialogue has not led to any convergence of views, adding holding of elections without national consensus makes dialogue “futile”.

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

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