Sudan election problems: few enough to be legitimate?
As voting ended today in Sudan's election, voters in the south complained about being unable to find their names on the voter rolls. Jimmy Carter says the election is a major stepping stone in the peace process.
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How elections play in Darfur and the South
For Southerners, these elections are an important stepping stone toward the referendum, when they can finally vote to separate from the Arab-and Muslim-dominated North. And some voters, like 30-year-old Angelo Alibo, see this vote as a chance to voice their own frustration with the ruling SPLM.Skip to next paragraph
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“Southerners are very excited about the elections because in most cases people are very tired of leaders who are appointed by decrees,” says Mr. Alibo. “For me, the election is important, but the most important one is the referendum.”
For some activists, the voting irregularities are clear evidence that this election would never be free and fair. Some human rights activists see these elections as a mere exercise to give President Omar al-Bashir – indicted on war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for his role in the Darfur conflict – to extend his 22 years in power, and to give himself democratic legitimacy. President Bashir came to power by overthrowing the elected government of Sadiq al-Mahdi in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.
John Prendergast, an activist with the Enough Project (a Washington-based lobby group against genocide), warns that Bashir will use his likely reelection as justification to fight an even harder war in Darfur, and also to undermine the SPLM, who have had an uneasy power-sharing agreement with Bashir over the past five years.
“Once Bashir feels unjustly "legitimized," he will gear up the war machine in Darfur to defeat the rebels there,” says Mr. Prendergast, in an email sent from his Blackberry. Bashir will “intensify efforts to undermine stability in the South through support to disaffected militias ... to undermine the holding of the independence referendum. Result? The return of full-scale national war.”
How Jimmy Carter sees it
Yet Jimmy Carter, the main international election observer in Sudan, says that these elections can be a key to future peace.
“This is part of the integral process that has to be done if the CPA is going to be implemented,” says Mr. Carter in an interview. “So we’re looking forward to the culmination of the entire process, and this is an unavoidable step in that process. And although there will be serious faults in the election, there is no doubt about that – which we’ll assess later on – it has to be done.”
“We are focused on the entire peace agreement. And there are two major stepping stones that have to be accommodated. One is the election and the other one is the referendum. And you can’t ignore one and then concentrate on the other. You have to concentrate on both of them.”
What would be the consequences of the referendum not taking place? - “I think a war, another outbreak of war.”