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Bashir: The only choice left in Sudan elections

In the Sudan elections that should have offered a choice between unity or southern secession, political Islam or secular governance, only President Omar Al-Bashir's party is running. Twelve parties are boycotting the vote.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / April 9, 2010

Sudan Elections: Sudanese pass under a billboard supporting Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan, Thursday, during a Muslim Sufi celebration.

Amr Nabil/AP


Kadugli, Sudan

This small city of tree-lined streets is so quiet that you wouldn’t even know that the town is about to take part in the first free Sudan election in 24 years.

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Just a year ago, Kadugli – nestled in the Nuba Mountains and not far both Darfur and South Sudan – was a no-go zone. Bandits carried out carjackings at will, gunfire could be heard in the town center at night, and radical Islamist militants in the neighboring region of Darfur suggested that they might be willing to expand their struggle against the Sudanese government and include Kadugli in their operations.

But even though tighter security and recently paved roads have improved people's lives, voters will have little to choose from in these elections, which begin April 11.

In an election that should have given Sudanese clear choices for their future – a choice between unity, or separation between the north and south; a choice between political Islam or secular governance – there will only be one party running, the party of President Omar Al-Bashir.

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement, declared a boycott last week, claiming that the elections would be rigged, that its candidates were harassed, that the security situation in the Darfur region was so bad that most Darfuris would not be able to cast their votes.

Eleven other parties have since joined the boycott, giving Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir a clear advantage as front runner in a one-man race. In the South, the SPLM continues its election campaign, cementing its control over territory it controlled during its 20-year civil war against the north.

Somewhere, a fat lady is singing.

“There are no choices in this election; the two parties are all going in one direction, toward power,” says Ahmed Sabiel, a political and risk analyst in Khartoum. “There is no clear strategy of how to keep the country together, or how to rule the country. There is no clear policy, and there is no clear objective. All the parties are just focusing on power.”

Two main powers pull apart

On paper, these elections should offer Sudanese voters a choice between two vastly different views of government. The ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of President Bashir has its roots in political Islam, and offers unity under a system that draws inspiration for governance, economics, personal ethics, and criminal justice from the teachings of the Koran.

The SPLM, while it draws most of its support from the Christian dominated south, offers a more secular vision of government, with no state religion and with a secular constitution governing all Sudanese fairly.

But in the past five years of a powersharing agreement and a Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the NCP and the SPLM have left both parties distrustful of each other, and visibly pining for a separation.

Salva Kiir, the SPLM leader and Sudan’s current vice president, declined to run against Mr. Bashir in these elections, choosing instead to lead the SPLM in the South, has signaled his preference for secession in the upcoming referendum planned for 2011. And Mr. Bashir – who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of his role in directing the war in the Darfur region, which killed 300,000 – has publicly stated that he would accept secession.

Bashir's party: Boycott an excuse