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Answers and Analysis: Sudan’s Elections

Last week’s discussion topic was Sudan’s elections. The trivia asked what Sudanese will vote for in the upcoming elections. The answer is that they will vote for president of the republic and semi-autonomous south as well as for national, southern, and state legislative assemblies. The discussion asked you to consider why the April 2010 elections in Sudan are so important.


The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed in 2005, ended the 21-year civil war between the north and south of Sudan. It also required that the Sudanese government hold national elections for national positions (such as President of Sudan), local positions (such as local members of parliament and governors), and Southern Sudanese positions (such as President of Southern Sudan) and mandated a national census and a referendum for possible southern independence, which is currently scheduled for 2011. You can read more about the CPA and what it entails in our recent discussion guide. 

Recently, most of the talk about the Sudan and the CPA has focused on the 2011 referendum vote; however, the upcoming elections are also very important, as they could be one of the first indicators of what the future of the south of the Sudan holds. The April 2010 elections have the potential to also be the first set of elections for many decades that even comes close to being free and fair. The regime in Khartoum has blocked political reforms necessary for such elections several times, and so these upcoming elections—if carried out fairly—could either legitimize the current regime or make way for peace. 

  For the citizens of Darfur, the elections contain many complications. Some people have even boycotted the voter registration process. This and similar obstacles notwithstanding, more than four fifths of eligible voters registered in the past few weeks, indicating that the polls just might ”reflect the will of the people.”  For the citizens who remain in IDP camps within Darfur, the elections go beyond complicated. According to Imagining the Election—a publication by the National Democratic Institute (NDI)—most of the citizens in Darfur and especially those in IDP camps exhibited a lack of familiarity with the electoral process, such as secret ballots or registering prior to voting. The NDI also states that one of the obstacles facing most of the internally displaced persons is that they lack proper identification, and so they might not be allowed to register or cast their vote. You can read the full NDI report here.


Even though most of the citizens know that the elections are happening and are unhappy with the current Sudanese government, most analysts believe that current president Omar al-Bashir will be re-elected, despite the fact that the International Criminal Court indicted him in 2009 with five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape in Darfur.

Many peace treaties and talks have been made and broken within Sudan, but the Comprehensive Peace Agreement holds firm. These April elections must be fair and representative of the peoples’ opinions in order for the 2011 referendum to pass and peace to ensue. There is hope, therefore, that the referendum on independence for south Sudan will still occur in 2011. However, before this could happened, there will need to be serious talks regarding the split of national assets, debts, and especially the oil-rich region—Abyei—which both the north and the south claim as theirs. 

 Much is at stake with these elections. They could allow the citizens to boot the current president out, paving the way for the 2011 referendum and peace, or they could re-elect al-Bashir, legitimizing his faulty leadership. The international community must step in to ensure that these elections are as transparent as possible, allowing the Sudanese to cast their votes freely.

-Emma Smith, National Sudan Education Coordinator
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