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Sudan’s NCP says that Bashir will not seek re-election in 2015

February 20, 2011 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will not run for re-election in 2015, a senior official in the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said on Sunday.

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FILE - Sudan’s President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir, wearing a southern traditional dress, attends a protest with southern Sudanese people against the International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant for him, in Khartoum March 7, 2009 (Reuters)

"[Bashir] announced that he will not enter the coming elections to compete for the presidency," Rabie Abdel-Aati, a senior National Congress Party official, told Reuters.

He said that Bashir had also offered to step down as head of the NCP, a move he said was part of a wider strategy to democratize the country.

"I can confirm, 100 percent, that Bashir is not going to run for president in the next election. He will actually give a chance to different personalities to compete for the position," Abdel-Aati told Agence France Presse (AFP).

"But he is not under pressure... This is not in the context of the change that is happening in the Arab world. It is happening because of the political strategy of the NCP to broaden participation," he added.

Earlier today, the Secretary General of the NCP’s Youth bureau Abdel-Moniem Al-Sunni told reporters that this is in line with the party’s proposed move of excluding anyone over 60 from the leadership and instead utilize their expertise in planning and legislating.

Al-Sunni denied that they have asked Bashir to step down saying they have nothing personal against him but stressed that the younger generations should have more representation in government.

"This issue is clear and was presented to the president during his meeting with the youths recently and Bashir asserted that he would lead these efforts himself," he said.

The NCP figure also denied that these proposed changes have any connection with revolts sweeping the Arab world lately that led to toppling deeply entrenched regimes in Egypt and Tunisia.

Another leading member of the ruling party also confirmed to Reuters the proposed changes.

"The president talked about placing a limit on the political retirement age to 60 years," said Hamid Momtaz, political secretary of the NCP’s youth sector who was at the meeting with Bashir.

"He said if these political changes happened within the party as he suggested then they would include him (Bashir)," Momtaz told Reuters on Sunday.

Other witnesses from the meeting earlier this week who declined to be named told Reuters that young NCP members berated the president over the level of corruption which had blighted the economy, and talks continued late into the night.

Momtaz said Bashir promised to form an anti-corruption commission, an organ to help graduates find jobs and to increase the participation of youth in the party and government.

"[These policies] would be a positive step along the right path and would help develop solutions to the current problems," Momtaz said.

While Sudanese officials sought to downplay the effects of events that are sweeping the region, many newspaper columnists including pro-government ones have warned that Khartoum must embrace reform to avoid the fate of rulers in Egypt and Tunisia.

Ordinary citizens watch with dismay the concentration of wealth among NCP loyalists and many believe that corruption is rampant within the government and ruling party.

Every year newspapers report that the inspector general complain to the parliament that government agencies refuse to open their books for auditing.

Last year, Bashir boasted his government’s record on corruption saying that the coup he led came with stringent controls to prevent it. He challenged to find any country in the world where the inspector general presents his findings to the legislative branch before the executive one.

In 2007, Bashir told BBC Arabic radio that Sudanese people get quickly bored by nature and that as such he wants to step down unless the NCP insists that he stays on.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera TV last month, he said that 26 years in power "is more than enough".

Sudan’s Bashir, who came to power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, is the only head of state haunted by an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant alleging his role in war crimes and genocide in Darfur.

He was forced to cancel appearances in many regional and international events after host countries asked him to stay away.

Despite this he managed last April to win the first multi-party polls since the 1986 election of the government that Bashir overthrew but were marred by accusations of fraud and an opposition boycott.

(ST)