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Bashir wins Sudan election. Now what?

Sudan announced today that President Omar al-Bashir won the April 11-15 Sudan election that Critics call a sham. Supporters say it gives the longtime military ruler new legitimacy.

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Bashir’s election win served a personal goal as well.

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Can Bashir now bargain with the ICC?

He was indicted last year by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and Bashir’s supporters hope that his election and his continued support of peace with the south and with the restive Darfur region will give him some bargaining power to delay or cancel any future ICC war crimes trial.

It is for this reason that human rights activists are most critical about these elections, calling them a sham, despite the Sudanese election commission’s apparently state-of-the-art methods for preventing ballot box stuffing.

“This election was decided over the last year, as the census was fixed, the voter registration was fixed, the drawing of voting districts was fixed, and the composition of the electoral commission was fixed,” says John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, an anti-genocide group based in Washington.

“But that wasn’t enough,” says Mr. Prendergast. “The ruling NCP bought support from elders, manipulated voter lists, and tampered with ballot boxes. Any whiff of credibility disappeared long before the election was actually held.”

Roots of the conflict

Like the ongoing conflict in the Darfur region, the two-decade long civil war in the south began because of Khartoum’s inability or unwillingness to govern or to bring development to the south. The conflict had a cultural aspect as well, pitting the mainly Christian southerners against Arabic-speaking Muslim northerners, a chasm that still remains largely unhealed despite five years of peace.

White House officials last week called the elections “an essential step,” while also pointing out major deficiencies in how the election was carried out.

Yet it is clear that the southern government of President-elect Salva Kiir is intent on pushing secession from the north, a matter that could stir up tensions anew, especially when it comes time to dividing up the rich oil-fields that straddle the boundary areas between the north and south.

“We need to see a new type of government in Sudan,” says Mr. Hikmat of Crisis Group. “If the government has a totalitarian approach, and the opposition is not accommodated, and if there is not a credible process for demarcation of the boundaries between north and south, then there is not going to be stability in Sudan. Compared with the last war, things will be even worse.”