There are only a few days to go until Sudan’s first “multi-party” elections in almost a quarter of a century and yet the picture is becoming increasingly unclear and positions are growing further and further apart with the continuation of controversy about when the elections will be held and accusations of fraud and calls for boycotting the elections. The opposition seems divided between full or partial withdrawal [from the elections] whilst the government is becoming increasingly insistent on holding the elections next Sunday regardless of the consequences. There is no glimmer of hope among these positions that indicates that this process will be the beginning of the healing stage, and achieving reconciliation seems necessary if Sudan is to pass the referendum on self-determination in the South to preserve its unity and prevent disintegration.
The problem with the elections is that they have been a maneuver for every party from the beginning. The government wants “electoral legitimacy” with which it will face the next stage after ruling for 21 years with the legitimacy of the tank and a tight grip on security. Nothing suggests that even for a moment it thought about abandoning authority through the elections or otherwise but rather it saw an opportunity to confront a weak and torn opposition. Moreover, the elections were originally part of a peace accord with the SPLM in the context of arrangements to end the war in the South and preparations for the referendum on self-determination.
As for the opposition, it believed that the elections might give it the opportunity to bring down the regime after it failed to do so for various reasons over the course of the past 20 years or more. The opposition waged on its alliance with the SPLM based on the consideration that the Southerners represent an electoral bloc comprising of four million voters who could stop the National Congress’ candidate from winning the first round. But perhaps the SPLM saw that waging on the ruling National Congress Party offers it a better chance to arrange secession through the upcoming referendum in January 2011, and that if it tactically supported al Bashir’s chances in winning the presidency then it will not be able to reject the results of the referendum on self determination especially if the majority of the southerners vote for secession, which is expected. The reality is just as the government is not ready to hand over the reins of power to anyone and sees that there can only be one outcome of the elections i.e. victory, the SPLM also sees only one outcome for the referendum i.e. secession. I do not expect that it will accept any other outcome, otherwise the results will be doubted and there will be the possibility of returning to war.
It is true that the SPLM formed an electoral alliance with the opposition parties in the north over the past few months or weeks but in the end it followed the path it believed would help it achieve its goals and will not sacrifice the referendum on self determination especially as [this is what] Omar al Bashir openly threatened, just as the regime’s messengers secretly informed the SPLM that if it boycotted the elections then the government would not commit to the upcoming referendum in the South. If one looks at the situation from the point of view of the SPLM then perhaps dealing with the National Congress Party in the upcoming stage of the referendum is better than dealing with the opposition parties whose positions are still conflicting and whose ranks are divided. They cannot even decide on boycotting the elections.
The logical analysis of the elections, and the controversy and accusations that surround them, is that they have put Sudan on the path to more fragmentation, and as a result it will push the situation towards what will help the South secede but not survive. Even worse and even more dangerous is that the secession of the South might open the door to other calls for secession in the future. In that case the elections will be a real plague on the country instead of forming a basis for a new stage of agreement.