WITH A terrible predictability, Sudan’s impending elections have degenerated into a chaotic mixture of massive fraud, vote-rigging, boycotts, intimidation, and abuses of national power by the ruling National Congress Party (known as the National Islamic Front during previous fraudulent elections).
Celebrated by various international actors as a move toward “democratization,” Sudan’s April 11-13 elections, however, have little chance of producing significant political change. With no serious competitors, Omar al-Bashir—indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity—will almost certainly retain the presidency he has held since the military coup he led in 1989.
Last week, the presidential candidate of the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, Yassir Arman, withdrew from the race because of widespread electoral fraud and the ongoing violence in Darfur. Northern opposition political parties—long disorganized and mainly irrelevant to the larger dynamics of power in Sudan—are also undecided about their role in the election and will either boycott them or participate in some truncated fashion.
The sectarian Umma Party, the most important of these parties, has declared that it will compete in the elections only if there is a delay until May and eight conditions are met—conditions so broad and sweeping as to constitute a virtually complete reformation of governance. The party’s demands are little more than posturing—a weak attempt to demonstrate the party’s own purportedly “democratic” credentials—and even if their partial boycott denies al-Bashir any claim to electoral legitimacy, it will still do nothing to reduce the stigma attached to his ICC indictment.
The SPLM also plans to boycott the presidential election and the elections to be held in Darfur, where any vote will be meaningless under present circumstances. But it will continue to field candidates for the National Assembly in order to prevent the NCP from attaining a “super majority” that would allow for unilateral changes to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement—an agreement that created both the Interim National Constitution and the electoral schedule.
Present national elections have already been delayed for two years, and the SPLM is afraid that if the NCP attains a super majority, the southern self-determination referendum that is scheduled for January 2011 will be delayed. The referendum—the key demand of the SPLM for many years—has secession as one of its options, and well over 90 percent of southern Sudanese are expected to vote for independence. As a result, all SPLM political calculations are informed by their desire to preserve the timely holding of the referendum.
Despite his claim to ensure electoral integrity, al-Bashir has also warned international election monitors, including the Carter Center, not to interfere in the upcoming elections. Suggesting a delay of a few days to deal with some of the massive logistical problems that alone have hopelessly compromised the election, the Carter Center and other monitoring countries have been told by al-Bashir that that they would be expelled for such suggestions. “If they interfere in our affairs, we will cut their fingers off, put them under our shoes and throw them out.”
[complete article continues at http://dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=344 ]