After more than one delay, the results of the Sudanese General Election were announced as expected, or rather as had been decided, with the victory of incumbent President Omar al-Bashir. The only thing that anybody was concerned with monitoring was al-Bashir’s percentage of the vote, especially in light of the talk about electoral violations and the continuing controversy and disagreement between the two ruling partners the National Congress Party [NCP] and the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Movement [SPLM] and other northern opposition parties.
According to official figures, al-Bashir received 6 million of the 10 million votes cast in the Sudanese elections, which is out of a total of 16 million eligible voters. This means – according to the official figures released by the Electoral Commission – that 6 million eligible voters boycotted the elections (also taking into account a proportion of people whose votes were not counted for one reason or another) and this represents a figure equivalent to the number of votes won by the victorious candidate and which constitutes a little over 37 percent of the electorate. Given that this was the first “multi-party” election in Sudan for almost a quarter of a century, the electoral turnout was expected to be unprecedentedly high and exceed all expectations, however the electoral process was marred by disagreement, controversy, and suspicion and several presidential candidates withdrew from the elections. This resulted in the Sudanese elections being stripped of two essential elements, and this is the presence of genuine political pluralism and complete transparency.
What is strange is that despite his withdrawal, SPLM candidate Yasir Arman received 21 percent of the vote, or 1 million votes. If we add this to the number of voters who boycotted the election (6 million) and the votes that went to other candidates, this makes a grand total of 8 million votes, which represents 50 percent of the electorate. This is something that presents a real problem to those who speak about the electoral “legitimacy” provided by the election results.
There is another issue that deserves contemplation, and that is that SPLM candidate Salva Kiir won 92 percent of the vote in the southern Sudanese presidential elections. The electorate in the south is united, in comparison to the electorate in northern Sudan which is divided while turnout in the southern election was extremely high, in comparison to the low turnout that was witnessed in northern Sudan. This means that northern Sudan is suffering from a crisis of leadership at a time when Sudan is standing at a real crossroads, and this is represented by the referendum on self-determination that is set to be held in southern Sudan in just eight months and a few days. Voters in the south have confirmed their support for the SPLM, which is something that did not happen for the NCP in the north. Voters in the south also sent a message that they are ready for this referendum and that this referendum will enjoy high voter turnout, and this comes amidst indications that the south is set to vote in favor of secession.
The way that the elections were conducted resulted in divisions increasing rather than being resolved and also strengthened the possibility for [southern] secessions at the expense of unification. In the coming period, all eyes will undoubtedly be focused upon the issue of the forthcoming southern referendum, for this is a principle part of the 2005 [Naivasha] Peace Agreement [between the Sudanese government and the SPLM] and defaulting on this will result in Sudan witnessing another round of [civil] war that will undoubtedly be more destructive than all previous rounds of conflict.
The Sudanese government is well aware of all of this, and is undoubtedly monitoring the external statements and movements that link [international] “acceptance” of these elections and all of its shortcomings with the forthcoming referendum in the south. Therefore the statements issued by al-Bashir following the announcement of his electoral victory all stress that his government is committed to the referendum and will respect its results whether it is in favor of secession or unification. NCP officials have commented saying that the country is facing a battle to make “unity attractive” and that there is little hope for a miracle to prevent southern secession, especially after the government wasted more than five years – since signing the Peace Agreement – quarreling and disagreeing with the SPLM, and attempting to cause division amongst the southerners. If this is the case, what can the government do now when there is just over eight months left?
The election results reflect the increasing division in northern Sudan, and the strengthening of the possibility for southern secession. The election results may also result in Sudan finding itself in the path of an international confrontation, as statements from Washington and Europe indicate that the election results will not stop the International Criminal Court from seeking to prosecute the Sudanese president.
Intelligent Khartoum officials believe that they should transcend the elections results and instead seek a [political] arrangement to confront the forthcoming challenges, and this includes forming a “national” government comprised of various parties, including parties that did not participate in the elections. In spite of the opposition of the hardliners within the Khartoum regime who believe that elections are an opportunity to consolidate their monopoly on power and continue their project to eliminate other north Sudan political parties, the only way out for Sudan may be through searching for means to achieve genuine national reconciliation and forming an inclusive government that can achieve peace in Darfur and supervise the referendum in the south. Sudan is at a crossroads and requires a national vision and a spirit of reconciliation.