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Sudanese await start of voting amid heightened security

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April 12, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese political circles were awaiting the official start of voting in the parliamentary and presidential elections on Monday amid intense security measures in the streets of the capital, Khartoum.

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National Congress Party (NCP) leader and presidential candidate Omer Hassan al-Bashir holds a Sudanese flag during a campaign rally in Omdurman on 9 April 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

The National Elections Commission (NEC) on Sunday announced completion of the technical and logistical arrangements for the start of polling in all states except for seven geographical constituencies in South Kordofan and Darfur states due to security reasons pertaining to the armed conflict in these areas.

Electorates will vote on seven electoral cards including one card for the president besides three parliamentary cards for geographical constituencies, proportional list and woman list and three cards for the legislative councils in Sudan’s 18 states.

Sixteen candidates are running for the presidency including the incumbent president and frontrunner, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, who faces little or no challenge from his lesser-known competitors.

Observers in Khartoum also noted that Bashir conducted this time his campaign alone without the participation of the NCP tenors who used in the past to campaign besides him or organise their own meeting to support the president.

NEC deputy chairman, Abdallah Ahmed Mahdi, said that 44 political parties are participating in the elections, pointing that 21.000 election workers have been deployed to 6,911 polling stations besides more than 10.000 supervisors.

In spite of all preparations promoted by the NEC, the Sudanese people seem so indifferent about the elections and the streets have not reflected any features of popular interest in the electoral process except in few peripheral neighbourhood where supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) have shown some activity.

On the other hand, activists from opposition parties have embarked on activating poll boycott campaigns by distributing banners in public transportation while some residents chose to hang banners on the doors of their houses saying “Sorry, inhabitants of this house are boycotting elections”.

Also, there were no electoral campaigns run by parliamentary or presidential candidates except that of Bashir who toured Sudan’s 18 states during the last month to promote his electoral program.

Presidential candidates suffered from lack of logistical and financial capabilities which allow them to run electoral campaigns across the country and some of them have accused Bashir of exploiting government resources in his campaign.

However, senior official at the NCP denied that Bashir uses government money in his campaign, saying it was funded from membership fees and donations of companies and businessmen.

Some constituencies, particularly in the Northern state, saw fierce competition between independent nominees and NCP candidates.

Most notably was the competition in constituency number 12 in Dongola between independent candidate, Abu al-Gasim Bartam and NCP nominee Bilal Osman and also in Abu Hamad constituency between independent candidate Mubarak Abas and NCP candidate Mohamed al-Barajoub.

According to the official news agency SUNA, the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers has announced Monday an official holiday to enable government workers to cast their ballots.

Meanwhile, the NCP invited media outlets and news agencies to come to its headquarters in order to be taken to the polling station where Bashir will cast his vote.

TIGHT SECURITY MEASURES

Following calls by opposition parties and youth groups for poll boycott particularly in the social media, Sudanese authorities made preparations for the worst case scenario and deployed 70.000 policemen to secure the electoral process.

However, the NEC chairman, Mukhtar al-Asam, said they agreed with the ministry of interior to prevent presence of the policemen inside polling stations.

Police director-general and head of the higher committee to secure elections, Omer Mohamed Ali, announced in a statement on Sunday the “completion of preparations to carry out the detailed programmes and plans to protect elections”.

“Police is ready to secure the [electoral] process and protect it against any threats,” he said.

In March, the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) general chief of staff, Abdel Aziz Adam el-Hilu, announced a campaign to sabotage elections in South Kordofan state.

Last week, the SPLM-N said it has seized a vehicle loaded with ballot boxes in South Kordofan but the NEC denied the news.

Sudan’s defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, had earlier asserted that the army will not allow rebels to sabotage elections in South Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile.

All opposition parties boycott the election and call to postpone it and to hold an inclusive process to discuss issues related to peace and constitutional reforms.

Since last February, they launched a political campaign “Leave” calling on the Sudanese to boycott the general elections and deprive the regime of legitimacy.

(ST)

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