Home | Comment & Analysis    Tuesday 23 February 2010

Sudan’s elections maintain dictatorship

By Arman Muhammad Ahmad

Democracy is more than just an election. After all, it is possible to have elections and not to have democracy. Elections are simply a means to produce rule by the people. In order for them to be legitimate, they must be free, fair and just.

Democracy entails freedoms

To have a democratic system, it is essential to preserve judicial independence and the rule of law, as well as fundamental rights and freedoms. By its very nature, a theocratic and military regime is essentially undemocratic and cannot carry out free and fair elections -simply because it does not believe in democracy. Evidence for this is the fact that the current NCP (previously known as National Islamic Front or NIF) came to power through a military coup that toppled a democratically elected government. Even today some of its members avoid talking about democracy and believe that democracy is a form of infidelity.

Democracy entails freedom of thought, organization and expression. It ensures that all citizens are equal before the law, have equal access to power and that freedom is generally protected by constitutional law. The absence of judicial independence and the violation of the rule of law by state officials in Sudan mean that democratic elections simply cannot take place.

The NCP used its mechanical majority in the unelected parliament to pass a Penal Code which gives regional governors the right to curtail freedom of expression and organization. In addition it used the same majority to pass the National Security Act, which allows security and intelligence personnel to violate the constitutional rights of citizens by detaining them for several months without a judicial warrant. It also gives the security and intelligence personnel legal immunity that prevents accountability. Thus, democratic elections have become a complete delusion.

The so-called Constitutional Court in Sudan approved the government’s long- standing policy of pre-print censorship. The policy gives the security and intelligence personnel unlimited powers to interfere in the editing of newspapers. This blatant violation of freedom of the press was shameful even for the NCP and led the government to hastily announce that as long as journalists remained within certain ’red lines’ they would not be censored. However the legal precedent remains part of Sudanese case law and may be enforced at any time.

To present an illusion of democracy in these elections the NCP (which has dominated the media for over 20 years) has allotted a maximum slot of 20 minutes on TV and radio for other presidential candidates to present their manifestos. Under such circumstances it becomes ludicrous to speak about free and fair elections in Sudan.

Since its military coup of 1989 the NCP group maintained its dictatorship in Sudan through the control of executive, legislative and judicial organs together with the absence of impartiality in the public services. All state institutions have become branches of the NCP, including the army, the police and the security services. In an effort to control all aspects of life in the country the dictatorship has recently drawn up new laws to control sporting institutions in Sudan. However, the Sudan Football Association received a letter from the (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) warning that they will reject all the new proposals regarding football because they are against FIFA laws and regulations. If the proposed laws are passed they will jeopardise the future of football, and sport in general, in Sudan.

If the lack of impartiality of the public services constitutes an indirect fraud when it comes to elections, direct fraud also occurs as the results of the population census on which the distribution of constituencies depends are falsified. This is swiftly followed by tampering with the electoral register. Given that NCP has been lying to the Sudanese people from the very beginning (even before President Al-basher denied and then affirmed his affiliation with the NIF), it would be naive to assume that these elections will be any more honest and impartial - even if some foreign observers describe them as free and fair.

Sham elections scenarios

In the case of the April 2010 general elections, the ruling group has already prepared its results. The rigging began with the injection of about 10 million false names into the electoral register allowing the Electoral Commission to claim that 16 million people (80% of the enfranchised population) have registered. Once the elections are over it will appear as if 80% (12.8 million voters) or even 90% of those registered have voted. With a turnout of over 80% the NCP will be able to claim (indeed one of them already has claimed) that it is in advance of well-established democracies around the world. Considering the NCP’s history of electoral fraud this is a completely plausible scenario - once we accept it, it becomes possible to predict the outcome of these elections. With a small margin of error, the results may be calculated as follows:

1 - Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the candidate of the ruling National Congress Party, will receive around 6.694 million votes, about 52.3% of the total votes.

2 - Yasir Saeed Arman, the candidate of the SPLM, around 4.122 million votes, will gain about 32.2% of the total votes, most of them from the south.

3 - Sadiq Al-Mahdi, the Imam of the Ansar, and the candidate of the National Umma Party, will gain around 806 thousand votes, about 6.3% of the total votes.

4 - Hatem Al Sir the candidate of the (Original) Democratic Unionist Party, will receive around 384 thousand votes, about 3% of the total votes.

5 - Munir Sheikh El-Din, the New National Democratic Party, will gain around 166 thousand votes, about 1.3% of the total votes.

6 - Fatima Abdel Mahmoud, the Sudanese Democratic Socialist Party, will receive around 154 thousand votes, about 1.2% of the total votes.

7 - Abdullah Deng Nhial, the Popular Congress Party, will gain around 128 thousand votes, about 1% of the total votes.

8 - Mubarak Al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, the Ummah-Reform and Renewal Party, will receive around 115 thousand votes, about 0.9% of the total votes.

9 - Muhammad Ibrahim Nugod, the Sudanese Communist Party, will gain around 76 thousand votes, about 0.6% of the total votes.

10 - Abdel-Aziz Khalid, the Sudan National Alliance Party, will receive around 64 thousand votes, about 0.5% of the total votes.

11 - Kamil Idris, an independent candidate, will gain around 51 thousand votes, about 0.4% of the total votes.

12 - Mahmoud Ahmed Juha, an independent candidate, will receive around 51 thousand votes, about 0.4% of the total votes.

Even if there were a second round this would not change the final result prepared in advance - the victory of the NCP candidate. Should a second round take place, it is very likely that most of the candidates from the north would have their votes added to give the NCP candidate about 60-70% of the total votes. With a little bit of modification, the above ratios could be mirrored into the other elections, for instance at parliamentary and state levels. Among all sensible Sudanese it is agreed that these elections were rigged from the outset. However, it will be difficult to digest the outcome. Those who choose to engage in this sham election despite condemning the fraud that mars the electoral process have accepted to play the role of bystanders in this silly drama. So the elections will finally do nothing more or less than maintain the dictatorship of the NCP.

It is unlikely that peace could ever be achieved in Sudan under such a brutal dictatorship. The signing of peace agreements was followed by an outbreak of war in the Darfur region, and southern Sudan again witnessed tribal and ethnic conflicts, secretly armed and supported by the NCP. These conflicts could destabilize peace and stability in the country. Instead of having comprehensive peace in Sudan we could see a failed state, endangering peace and stability on local and regional levels or even threatening international peace and security. Ultimately, only true democracy that maintains the rule of the people and works for their interests can bring real peace and sustainable stability to Sudan.

The author is a Sudanese writer. He can be reached at armana@email.com