Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sudan's elections: already totally compromised.

From Sunday 11 through to Tuesday 13 April, the volitile, ethnic-religious fault-line state of Sudan will hold general elections as mandated by the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

For a brief background, see: Sudan on the Brink
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 050 | Wed 07 April 2010

The 11-13 April elections will not, however, herald the emergence of democracy. Rather, Sudan's already thoroughly compromised elections will merely demonstrate the regime's uncompromising determination and ability to maintain its grip on power and to continue its repressive Arab-Islamic domination of Sudan's vast and varied peoples. For instead of implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the ruling National Congress Party (NCP, formerly the National Islamic Front (NIF)) has spent the past five years frustrating and stalling the peace process -- including by means of destabilisation through conflict -- and corrupting the electoral process at every level.


The preparatory census, taken over a mere two weeks in 2008, is totally compromised. While the census results have been widely rejected as fraudulent, the National Elections Commission (NEC), which is dominated by former NCP/NIF officials, not only accepted the results but used the rigged census results to calculate power-sharing: i.e. to draw up electoral districts, apportion seats in the national and state legislative assemblies, and organise voter registration. It will use the same rigged results to calculate wealth-sharing between the North and South.

Recommended reading: The reality is that as many as 4-5 million southerners have been displaced by war, and those displaced into the North have been counted as Northerners for the purpose of inflating the Northern population so that the North can secure more electoral districts and more assembly seats. Of course this has also deflated the Southern population to the degree that Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM's) representation in the National Assembly has decreased from 28 percent to around 21 percent.

Likewise, some three million Darfuris have also been disenfranchised due to displacement and insecurity, thus reducing their representation. In fact, in Darfur, whole parts of states -- specifically southern regions under rebel control -- have been left out of any constituency. For example, in its comprehensive report of 30 March 2010 entitled "Rigged Elections in Darfur and the Consequences of a Probable NCP Victory in Sudan" , International Crisis Group reports that: "The rebel-held Jebel Marra massif in Southern Darfur, with an estimated population of 1 million but only 35,000 according to the 2008 census, has no seats."

Despite the displacement, the population of Darfur has exploded with a reported 322 percent increase in nomadic Arabs! Investigators report that Darfuri towns ethnically cleansed by government-sponsored Arab janjaweed militias have been resettled with nomadic Arabs from neighbouring Chad and Niger and Mali who have been issued with Sudanese ID papers and registered to vote -- for the NCP.

Reeves stresses in his August 2009 report that it is "important that these results stand clearly revealed as fraudulent: otherwise the NIF/NCP will use these putatively 'national' elections to legitimize their continuing rule, and to de-legitimize both the SPLM and the Darfur rebels, as well as northern political opposition groups. . ." Reeves continues: ''it is hugely important that the NIF/NCP fraudulence be exposed because the rigging could result in the NIF/NCP gaining sufficient legislative power to re-write the CPA, or the terms of the SSDR."

Indeed, as noted by defense analyst Dr J. Peter Pham Ph.D., in a column entitled "Sudan's Elections and the Country's End Game" (6 April 2010) , the rigging of the census has already had a catastrophic impact. "As a result of this maneuver [rigging of the census], the ten states of South Sudan together have been allocated only one-fourth of the number of National Assembly seats awarded to the fifteen northern states. The shift is significant because South Sudan would no longer be able to block major legislation, much less changes to the country's constitution -- the former requires a two-thirds majority of parliament, while the latter three-quarters of the vote". (This is exactly what Reeves, in his June 2009 report, described as "a worst case scenario".)
See also: Elections, Making Sense of Sudan:
Sudan’s Census and the National Assembly Elections
posted by Marc Gustafson, 19 Dec 2009


The International Crisis Group's comprehensive report comments on the recent discovery "that the NEC had diverted the tender for printing presidential ballots from a Slovenian printing house (for $800,000) to the government-controlled Sudanese Currency Printing Company (for $4 million). The NEC justified its decision to favour a Sudan-based firm on the fact that if a run-off vote is required there would only be 21 days to complete the printing and that the Sudanese Currency Printing House was accustomed to operating in secrecy, so the risk of fraud would be reduced."

Further to this, as Reuters reports, the ballots, which are already amongst the most complicated in the world, have been printed only in Arabic, when South Sudan is mostly English-speaking.

And as Pham notes, there can be no political legitimacy without electoral credibility.


Several opposition parties had united in an SPLM-led coalition under the name, National Consensus (or the Juba Alliance), with the SPLM's candidate for the Presidential poll, Yasser Arman, viewed as the only serious contender to al-Bashir. Arman is a northern Arab Muslim, former Communist, and long-time supporter and high ranking member of the SPLM.

It now appears, however, that the NCP/NIF regime in Khartoum has struck a deal with the SPLM that will guarantee al-Bashir the Presidency in exchange for his guarantee that the referendum on Southern self determination will go ahead.
See: SPLM: Between the NCP and the National Consensus (30 March 2010)
For on Wednesday 31 March, Yasser Arman pulled out of the presidential race citing rigging, and insecurity in Darfur. Arman's pull out from the presidential race will almost certainly guarantee al-Bashir a first round win. Had Arman contested, he might have forced al-Bashir into a second round run-off, which al-Bashir might not have been able to win.

According to the Sudan Tribune (31 March) : "The Sudanese opposition reacted with anger and surprise after the ex-Southern rebel group decided to pull its presidential candidate leaving them feeling betrayed as speculations raged on a secret deal with the ruling party.

"'This is a betrayal by the SPLM of its agreement with the opposition forces,' said Kamal Omer from the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP) to Reuters, adding the party would not be boycotting the polls.

"Sideeg Yousuf from the Communist Party said he was surprised by the unilateral announcement, which he called 'rushed'. 'The SPLM and all the political forces agreed that they would make their position in consensus at a meeting tomorrow [Thursday]," he told Reuters. But he added he hoped the parties would still all meet.

"Fouad Hikmat, from the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, said the SPLM had struck a deal with the NCP to allow Bashir to win the presidency. 'The SPLM have decided to not [fully] boycott the elections because they don't want to jeopardize the referendum -- that is very important to them.'"

According to Reuters: "People in South Sudan said they were disappointed the SPLM would not field a contender against Bashir, but that the referendum was more important to them.

"'Perhaps it was a deal between the SPLM and the NCP to protect the referendum,' civil servant Manong Thot said in the southern capital, Juba.

"Doctor Victor Jal said it was the right move. 'This election is not going to be free and fair -- the NCP is going to rig it, everyone knows this,' he said. 'What is important for us is just the referendum.'"

It absolutely beggars belief that the SPLM would value the word of the NCP/NIF regime over the solidarity of its allies. Once again, the NCP/NIF regime has managed to divide its opposition.

Here are two excellent news clips from Al-Jazeera that cover most of the points raised above:

Meanwhile, optimists (particularly in the US administration) are still chattering away about progress in democracy and the need to prepare Sudan for a "soft landing" after the Southern self-determination referendum.

If there is a referendum (and remember, the NCP has rigged the elections specifically with the aim of controlling 75 percent of seats in the National Assembly so it can amend the constitution and re-write the terms of the CPA) then you can guarantee there will not be any "soft landing". Khartoum is never going to just let the oil-rich South secede.

In November 2009, Sudan expert Eric Reeves wrote a third report on the elections entitled (ominously) "Sudan: Election Crisis Reveals a Country Lurching Toward War." This too is recommended reading.

Reeves' introductory paragraph provides a summary of his thesis: "There is growing awareness that national elections scheduled for April 2010 will fail on many counts, with unpredictable consequences for the Khartoum regime's ambitions to retain its stranglehold on Sudanese national wealth and power. In turn, the prospect of an aborted or compromised Southern self-determination referendum (January 2011) looms ever closer, with the potential to trigger unfathomable destruction."

In my mind there is little doubt that Sudan is indeed "lurching towards war". I believe that this has been more or less the case ever since the untimely death of long-time SPLM leader Dr John Garan in the months after the signing of the CPA. As the South's most passionate advocate of the New Sudan vision (united, secular, democratic), Dr Garang was probably the only Southern leader capable of making that vision a reality. (For a more comprehensive report on this issue see my religious liberty news & analysis posting of 3 October 2007 entitled "Southern Sudan: On the path to war".)