Sudan: What do we make out of Sudan's elections?

Darfur_mapThe Sudanese voting period ended on April 15, but while the actual voting process has come to an end, a debate about election transparency and credibility has started. The debate involves political parties, international observers and citizens in and outside Sudan.

Let’s start by looking at the opinion of the international community on the election and its credibility. In an article written in Afriquejet titled African Union, IGAD praise Sudan security for peaceful polls :

Considering its recent political history, the numerous challenges relating to the size of the country, the security situation and the political tensions prevailing ahead of the elections the election was a monumental milestone in the history of Sudan.

In the article, AU observer Kunle Adeyemi dismisses protesters who argue that the process was not free and fair:

We agree that the elections were not perfect. However, you do not expect somebody who did not take part to say anything positive. The election was a building block for future elections.

Regionally, in an article written in the Sudan Tribune titled African and Arabs organisations praise the conduct of Sudanese elections.

The statement by the Arab League says:

We cannot say that the Sudanese elections have met international standards, but that does not reduce what has happened, which is an important transition,” said Salah Halima the head of AL mission in Khartoum today

On the other side the AU statement notes that the elections were a great achievement for the Sudanese people”

What happened in Sudan was a historical event and a great achievement for Sudanese people,” said Kunle Adeyemi, who is spokesperson of the AU observer mission in Sudan chaired by John Kufuor the former President of Ghana. “Looking into the fact this is a country that had not had a multi-party election for almost a generation… to say they are free and fair, to the best of our knowledge we have no reason to think the contrary,” he added.

“We have not found evidence of fraud… we saw a vote that was very transparent,” Adeyemi affirmed.

In the blogosphere there are a variety of opinions and perspectives about the credibility and the meaning of this historical event.

A post titled Ruth Messinger: Failed Elections in Sudan: Now What? at Blog All Over the World argues that Obama's carrot and stick policy towards Sudan needs some sticks:

The Obama administration has expressed disappointment in the way these elections were conducted. But press releases are not enough. President Obama's “carrots and sticks” policy of rewarding the Sudanese government for progress towards peace and holding it accountable for undermining peace now requires some sticks. And we are eager to see, in light of Sudan's recent elections, how the White House intends to implement its own stated policy.

At Making Sense of Sudan, Abd al-Wahab Abdalla concludes that the election was ugly. He explains:

Rigging, fraud and corruption, there were. Voters excluded from the poll, last-minute registration and a roundup of voters with hastily-issued residence certificates which may or may not have matched the names on the voters’ roll, all will surely be documented by the observers. These had no material consequence for the outcome of last week’s election in Sudan.

The ugly result of the election was determined long ago by the material forces that have driven Sudanese political life for the best part of forty years. Political organization founded in the means of production was decisively crushed by the May Revolution and instead Sudanese have witnessed the coalescence of political activities around nothing more than proximity to the state and its instruments of power and rent. The only revolutionary alternatives, from the left in the form of the banners of the “New Sudan” raised by the SPLM, and from the right with the Islamists’ slogans of self-reliance, adopted from necessity rather than conviction, have long since succumbed to the lure of the politics of the bazaar.

He continues with his analysis:

Our voters fall into two main categories. Category A is those who have, of necessity or opportunism, joined the loyalty parade. This includes almost all rural voters whose services and livelihoods require government beneficence. It includes anyone who may need a licence to trade. These voters will vote NCP, and the uglier the candidate, the more likely they will vote him in, because the ugliest representative is likely to be the one seated closest to the president and his minions.
Category B is those who have neither material interest nor personal proclivity for this kind of politics. Most of them did not register and most of those who registered did not vote. Observing the trickle of voters at the polling stations last week I would guess that the male population under the age of thirty belongs in its near entirety to category B.

Kayode Oladele of Sahara Reporters reflects on the elections and identifies some values in the Sudanese electoral system that other countries can emulate:

There is one innovative and good side to the Sudan elections which other countries can emulate. They had a combination of the First Past The Post (FPTP) system and a Proportional Representation (PR) system. Under the PR system they had the Women List and the Party List. This encouraged a lot of women to turn out during polling.

Finally, Maggie discusses the delay in announcing official election results:

To many in the South, the NEC’s announcement today came as no surprise, given the significant difficulties in collecting ballot papers and results from local polling stations—some of which are not accessible by road. (In these locations, the United Nations is helping collect elections materials by helicopter). The tabulation of results is complicated for some of the same reasons that the polling process was complex; the number of ballots and the lack of resources at the local level.

Today, an official at the South Sudan Elections High Committee told Enough that the NEC should have listened to the state-level elections committee in the South, who have a better understanding of the logistical constraints and technical challenges that have affected the electoral process in the South than the national body in Khartoum


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