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Sudan Elections 2010: The good, the bad and the ugly

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, Sudan, Elections, Politics

On April 11, 2010 citizens in Sudan went to the polls for the first time in 24 years. A whole generation that was born, raised, educated and graduated under one totalitarian government rule has been able to cast their vote.

Sudanese elections would pave the road for a 2011 South Sudan referendum, which might change the geographic boundaries of the largest country in Africa forever.

Please join me in finding out what is happening in the Sudan from bloggers in Sudan and the Diaspora.

Writing in her blog post Observing Sudan's elections [1], Fatma Naib says:

The process was supposed to start from 0800am Mecca time. I arrived at a polling station in central Khartoum, where voting began more than an hour late.

But the delay did little to dim the fervour of several 60-year-old women, who were waiting eagerly for the voting process to start.

I asked some of them of how they felt. Khadija, 63, said that she was excited and this is her “right” as a Sudanese. I noticed that there were a lot of older women and soldiers who came early to cast their vote.

While at the polling station, she noted that there were not many young Sudanese in the 18-35 age group:

I didn't see many young Sudanese in the 18-35 age group. Perhaps this will change in the coming days.

The process was observed by local and international observers. The Carter Center was there and Jimmy Carter, the former US president, came to watch the process unfold. When asked about what he thought of the polling procedures, he said that everything seemed “orderly”.

A member of “Girifna” [2]group (which means We Are Fed Up or  Disgusted) states [3]: “I voted for the first time in my life yesterday in the first Sudanese elections in 24 years”:

I voted for the first time in my life yesterday in the first Sudanese elections in 24 years. The first vote I ever cast was in an election that is rigged and predetermined. I debated whether I should even cast it because all the opposition candidates had pulled out, and there was so much evidence of foul play during the registration period and leading up to the elections, that it seemed pointless. I voted anyway, partly because my candidate was still on the ballot despite having pulled out, and because I wanted to exercise my right to vote against President Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party [4] (NCP).

Girifna calls for Observer Missions [5]to stop lending credibility to Sudan’s Elections:

International observer missions have so far been subject to severe government intimidation. The Sudanese government harshly criticized the Carter Center after publication of its report on March 17, 2010 which detailed significant violations in the elections process throughout all stages including fraud and repression of speech and other freedoms. The report also described the uneven playing field for political parties and unequal access to media suggesting technical advises to enable National Election Commission (NEC) to handle the electoral process.  Since then the Sudanese government has on multiple occasions threatened all international observer groups more broadly.  On March 22 President Omar al Bashir [6] publicly threatened to cut off the noses and fingers of internationals who “intervene in internal affairs” and endorsed any delay of elections. He repeated this threat on April 5 in Jazeera State. Threats to international actors who intervene to oppose any postponement of the poll—such as for example, the United States Special Envoy— are conspicuously absent.

In the same article, the group argues that international observers are undermining local observers:

This silent acquiescence by international observer missions in the face of increasing repression also undermines the attempts of local domestic observers to monitor the process. Today, for example, a number of local organisations, all of which have been internationally recognized as independent civil society experts, were summarily informed they would not be permitted to participate as election monitors by the NEC. The NEC refused to provide either a copy of this determination in writing or reasons for the decision. The silence is contributing to the climate of fear and insecurity which is unfolding around the elections, adding to both the apprehension and probability of violence and greater repression.

The Sudan Tribune is of the opinion that [7] the presence of international observers in Sudan serve the interest of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).

BlackKush concludes [8] that the whole process is turning out to be a sham:

If the elctions are not going to be free and fare in the North, how will it be in the South? Is it not the same elections, same ballots and same NEC? When there are no explanations, the conspiracy theories abound and I like what I hear, because it goes with what I believe a long time ago that it is going to happen: that SPLM is handing Northern Sudan to NCP and NCP is handing Southern Sudan to the SPLM. That will be the results of the elections, each ensuring their grip in power. And the oppositions parties, they can go to hell.

The opposition have already sensed this and said the SPLM cut a deal with NCP. Are they right? Maybe. Bashir has threatened to postpone the crucial referrundum in the South in 2011 if SPLM withdraw completely from the elections aor asked for delays. For the SPLM, 2011 is much more important than the elections.

Finally, Sudan Thinker questions [9]the role of the United States of America in this historic elections:

why do the US envoy to Sudan and Jimmy Carter seem to express a rather optimistic, albeit cautious views about the event? Well, to answer that, one first needs to notice that the US administration took a position contrary to that of the opposition parties in Sudan.

While many in the opposition wanted the elections to be postponed, the US pressed that they should continue on time, regardless of boycotts and threats of more boycotts by the opposition. This is because America views the historic event within the bigger and more important context in which it is happening: the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which has milestones and a timeline designed to lead to the Southern Sudan referendum in January 2011.