Sudan elections -  April 2010

The three-day polls kicked off on April 11, and have been trumpeted as the first genuine multiparty elections in the country since 1986 - a vote that would achieve, in the much-used phrase, a "democratic transformation". President Omar al-Bashir's military rule, established by a coup in 1989, would give way to a government that reflects the will of the people.

The poll was part of the 2005 peace deal which ended more than two decades of conflict between the mainly Muslim north and the south where most people are Christian or follow traditional religions.But a succession of withdrawals by political heavyweights, aghast at alleged rigging, has leached much of the credibility from the elections.

The former southern rebels, the SPLM, announced they would boycott the presidential elections, along with legislative and local polls in most of the north. They were followed by a number of northern opposition candidates and parties.

Then, after days of deliberations, Umma, a major opposition party with history and current clout, announced its own boycott.The party will contest a few votes, particularly in its central heartlands. But it withdrew its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi from the presidential race, and its candidates from parliamentary and state elections up and down the country.

President Bashir no longer has to face his two greatest threats, Mr Mahdi and Yassir Arman of the SPLM.

The most credible men standing against him, Abdallah Deng Nhial of the Popular Congress Party, and Hatem al-Sir of the Democratic Unionist Party, are not even the leaders of their own parties.

 'Complex election'

President Bashir's electoral victory seems assured. His party should do well too, in the north, despite opposition from the DUP in particular. In the semi-autonomous south, where the SPLM is taking part, it is widely expected to retain power. Meanwhile in Darfur, where a low-level civil war continues, there will be no voting in large areas, and hundreds of thousands of displaced people are not even registered to vote.

Many Sudanese voters know what to expect. "There is no confusion here, we all know Bashir is going to win. Now there is no competition, he is going to win by default," says Sojoud, a first-time voter. "But if we elect the same party again, the country is going to break up, and we are going to have a country with one race and one religion, and everyone who doesn't look like Bashir will not be welcome.

"But I don't have any options, because all the people I could have voted for have withdrawn, they are cowards!" Others believe the boycotts show the lack of quality of those who oppose the president. "We have many parties who are weak in their structure and their ideas, they can't convince the people," says Rachid, who intends to vote for President Bashir.

"That will give strength to President Bashir's National Congress Party." To further complicate matters, the elections are "some of the most complex and challenging on record," according to the UN. In the north, people will vote eight times, and in the south 12.

Most will never have voted before, and with high illiteracy rates, it is likely there could be a lot of spoilt ballot papers.

"This could make problems, because many of the voters who vote in an incorrect way will think there has been cheating when their candidate doesn't win," says Abubaker al-Magzou, a journalist for Ajras al-Horraya newspaper.

- Source (BBC News )


 

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