Sudan Begins Counting In Polls Marred By Boycotts

Despite decades of civil war and a heavily armed population the presidential and legislative voting witnessed no major armed violence, a step forward for the oil-producing country hoping to evolve into a democracy ahead of a referendum next year on independence for south Sudan.

With opposition parties and candidates boycotting much of the north, it is almost certain there will be no change of leadership in both north and south.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir — wanted by the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges over Darfur — is likely to be confirmed as president of the republic and Salva Kiir should remain president of semi-autonomous south Sudan, given his party’s dominance there.

Many political analysts fear a newly elected NCP, freshly legitimised by the polls, may clamp down after the results.

The opposition groups that chose to boycott the elections say they will hold peaceful protests after the polls, but a senior member of Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) said that was not wise.

“At some time this right (to demonstrate) has to be granted fully to the people,” said Salaheddin. “Not these days — the possibility of flare-up, clashes between demonstrators has to be borne in mind,” he added.

Not all Sudanese shared his optimism.

Facing an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for war crimes in Darfur, Bashir hopes a victory would legitimise his rule.

“(The opposition groups) are not gong to recognise the outcome of the elections and they are going to go to the streets and try to change the regime … through conflict, riots,” Nafie told reporters at a briefing.

He quoted from what he said were opposition statements promising to mount protests, reject the newly elected administration and replace it with a “government of national unity”.

“If you have any explanation for this other than chaos and trying to change the regime through popular revolution … I don’t have any other explanation,” he said.


Nafie said he had heard similar threats from the opposition Umma party, the breakaway Umma Reform and Renewal faction and the northern sector of south’s Sudan’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

He said he doubted the parties had the following to organise mass protests but said any attempt would be stopped.

Nafie’s message marked a sharp change in tone from a more conciliatory message from senior NCP official Ghazi Salaheddin on Wednesday, offering boycotting parties places in the next government.

Salaheddin said the NCP wanted to build consensus ahead of the southern referendum and other challenges.

Nafie, one of the party’s more confrontational figures, put conditions on the offer, saying parties would have to share the NCP’s principles to join it in govenrment.

UMMA Reform and Renewal leader Mubarak al-Fadil dismissed the plot accusation, saying he had assured a government delegation that he had no plans to launch protests.

The SPLM’s boycotting presidential candidate Yasir Arman earlier this week told Reuters he was considering calling peaceful protests after the results, which are due on Tuesday.

Nafie played down earlier reports south Sudan’s army had killed nine people including at least five NCP officials during voting, saying some people had died in a private confrontation, but the killing had nothing to do with the elections.

The head of the NCP in south Sudan earlier accused the southern army of mounting a politically-motivated attack.

The southern army said it was an individual crime of passion by one of their soldiers who had found the local NCP chief in bed with his wife.

“The coming days are really when things are going to potentially get heated,” said Maggie Fick, an analyst from the U.S.-based Enough project. Reuters