KHARTOUM, (Reuters) – Sudan’s main opposition parties have withdrawn from this month’s presidential election, a senior member of one of the groups said on Thursday, a decision that could wreck the vote and damage the faltering peace process.
“On the level of the candidates of the Presidency of the Republic, most of them (Sudan’s opposition groups) decided to withdraw,” said Mohamed Zaki, head of office for Sadeq al-Mahdi, leader of the opposition Umma party.
Zaki said only five independents and representatives of smaller parties were still in the race against incumbent President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
Zaki said there was still a chance the main opposition candidates might review their decision if the government agreed to an overhaul of the National Elections Commission and responded to their complaints of widespread vote fraud.
A day earlier, south Sudan’s leading party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), withdrew its candidate Yasir Arman from the election, protesting against voting irregularities and insecurity in Darfur.
Sudan’s presidential, parliamentary and gubernatorial elections, due in less than two weeks, are central to the 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of civil war between Sudan’s Muslim north and the south, whose inhabitants are mostly Christian or follow traditional beliefs.
As part of the peace accord, the SPLM joined Bashir’s northern National Congress Party (NCP) in a fragile national coalition government.
The SPLM last year joined a loose coalition with opposition groups calling for democratic reforms and complaining about irregularities in the preparation for the vote.