KHARTOUM, (Reuters) – One of Sudan’s largest opposition parties said on Friday it would boycott presidential, legislative and gubernatorial polls if government did not meet demands including a four-week postponement within four days.
The opposition Umma Party had said on Thursday it was united with Sudan’s other main political parties to withdraw their presidential candidates from the race. This was intended to discredit incumbent Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s bid to secure a new term in oil-producing Sudan.
The new decision followed a six-hour meeting of the party’s political bureau. Sources said the rank and file, who had spent money and time campaigning wanted to continue with the polls, despite accusations of widespread fraud. “If these eight conditions are not fulfilled by April 6, the Umma party will boycott all the process of elections,” Sara Luqdallah, a senior party official told reporters.
Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party has repeatedly said it will not accept any delay to the polls due to start on April 11 in Africa’s largest country, the first multi-party vote in 24 years.
Luqdallah said U.S. Sudan envoy Scott Gration, who flew into Khartoum hoping to save the polls, had told Umma party leader Sadeq al-Mahdi in a morning meeting that he “would try to achieve the delay”.
Demands include freezing oppressive security laws, a body to oversee the National Elections Commission they accuse of bias towards the NCP, fair access to state media and for the ruling party to stop using state resources in its campaign. “If they are genuine (that there will) be free and fair elections, these eight articles may be fulfilled,” Luqdallah said.
An opposition alliance meeting on Thursday ended in disarray over a full boycott of the election process. The other main opposition party, the Democratic Unionist Party, had told the meeting it would boycott, but on Friday party sources said it was also wavering.
The DUP would also meet later on Friday.
The discussions followed a shock decision on Wednesday by south Sudan’s leading party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), to withdraw its presidential candidate Yasir Arman and boycott all elections in the western Darfur region, citing conflict there and alleged fraud.
Arman was seen by many as the main challenger to Bashir, who is now almost certain to win the vote.
A senior official of Bashir’s NCP mocked the opposition’s tactics. “If you know beforehand that this is a lost contest, why waste your time and resources on a lost bet?” the official, Ibrahim Ghandour, told Reuters. “This does not affect the legitimacy of the contest.”
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes during a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur. He rejects the court’s jurisdiction and denies the accusations.