In countries emerging from violent conflict, the international community has presented free and fair elections as the mechanism for establishing legitimate and stable government. And so, from April 11th – 13th this year, the citizens of Sudan will cast their votes for both the president of the republic and for the semi-autonomous south, as well as for national, southern, and state legislative assemblies.
- 75.8% of eligible Sudanese were registered during the voter registration period ending in December 2009 according to National Election Committee (NEC) statistics.
- The Carter Center’s review of the process found it to be generally peaceful and commendable, but without the full incorporation of Darfur voters and Internally Displaced People living in camps.
- Elections will be held for six levels of government, including the presidential seat. Approximately 70 political parties have already registered for the election.
- To date, there are 12 presidential candidates who include:
- Abdullah Deng Nhial (Popular Congress Party)
- Mubarak Al Fadil (Umma Reform and Renewal Party)
- President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (National Congress Party)
- Yassir Arman (SPLM)
“Elections are meant to choose a democratically elected president who will listen to us because we shall have strong influence on his leadership, since we are the ones who choose him. “
“[Multi-party competition] is good in places like America and Britain where people don’t fight over election results, but for Sudan’s case, it is good to start with only two parties so that people can learn the ways of good elections.”
“It is always my wish to vote in the elections if the time comes…Of course, I will vote because that is what I have been waiting for.”
“Surely, that [voting in secret] is a bad idea. We are not educated; we cannot read or write. How will we know this is the paper for my candidate?”
After interviewing many people, the NDI came up with some generalizations that participants in Southern Sudan and the three areas have limited knowledge of the national elections planned for 2010. They define its purpose as fulfilling a CPA milestone and as an opportunity to choose more effective and responsive leaders. They also discovered that most Southern Sudanese participants believe the 2010 election will only involve the offices of president of the Republic of Sudan and/or President of the Government of Southern Sudan and are aware that other positions will be on the ballot as well. Almost all citizens that they talked to said that they intend to vote in the election, though they are unaware of the need to register first. The citizens also said that the only factors that could prevent them from voting are” insecurity, inaccessible polling stations or ID requirement.” Also, NDI discovered that the knowledge of political parties is limited, and is particularly low among women; however, the SPLM is the most widely recognized and supported political party in Southern Sudan.
These elections will be a huge benchmark in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in 2005. The CPA marked the end of a 21-year civil war between the north and south Sudanese. It was signed by the Government of South Sudan as well as the Government of National Unity. In addition to holding of elections, the CPA also contains elements relating to border demarcation, the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants into the formation of joint integrated units involving the two sides and a national census. The elections will also set the scene for the milestone 2011 referendum on secession guaranteed to the people of South Sudan. There are, however, a lot of issues facing the Sudanese as they prepare to vote in April. For example, in Darfur, it will be nearly impossible to conduct fair elections with so much violence and hostility there. Many U.S. and UN officials are concerned that the government will use military intimidation on the citizens in the polling booths, especially in Darfur. And the government of Sudan right now has refused to lift the media censorship, which means that not all of the political parties have access to the media to publish their ideas freely, and therefore, very few citizens know which parties are campaigning.
-Emma Smith, National Sudan Education Coordinator
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