KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir will not stand at the next election as part of a package of reforms aimed at democratizing the country, a senior official of the ruling party said on Monday.
Bashir took power in a bloodless coup in 1989. In April 2010 he won presidential elections which many opposition parties boycotted, citing fraud.
“(Bashir) announced that he will not enter the coming elections to compete for the presidency,” Rabie Abdelati, a senior National Congress Party official, told Reuters.
The next presidential elections are due in four years.
Bashir is the only sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court, for war crimes and genocide in the war-torn Darfur region. He denies the charges.
Last week Bashir hinted to youth members of his party that he would retire if the NCP adopted a retirement age of 60 for political posts.
The opposition belittled the move, saying the NCP was trying to head off mass protests and feared contagion from popular uprisings which have ousted the Tunisian and Egyptian presidents.
Abdelati said Bashir had also offered to step down as head of the NCP, a move he said was part of a wider strategy to democratize the country.
“This is an NCP strategy to let different generations fill different positions within the party and government,” he said, adding that the NCP was also planning to allow freedom of expression for other political parties.
“This will create a democratic environment for the whole of society.”
Sudanese security forces have used force to break up dozens of small protests throughout the north since January as an economic crisis began to bite and the oil-producing south voted to secede and become independent in July.
Protests throughout the Arab world have led to offers of political reform by long-term, often autocratic rulers. Sudan’s opposition has so far refused to enter talks with the NCP on such reforms.