With less than two weeks to go before Sudan will hold its first multi-party elections since 1986, Yasir Arman—presidential candidate for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)—announced that he was withdrawing from the race. Arman cited the unresolved and escalating conflict in Darfur as well as election “fraud” as his reason for the sudden discontinuation with the presidential race. SPLM is also boycotting all elections in the volatile region of Darfur; however, they will participate in the parliamentary elections in the rest of Sudan’s regions. Many other parties have been threatening for weeks to boycott the elections due to the complexities surrounding the voter registration process as well as the voting itself, both of which make it unclear whether or not these elections will truly be free and fair. Most major parties in Sudan have withdrawn from the presidential elections, and some have also announced their intent to pull out of the parliamentary and municipal polls as well. There is reason to believe that the rest of the groups who were threatening to boycott and withdraw will go through with their intentions now that SPLM has announced their decision for a partial boycott.
Special Envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration is currently in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, presiding over crisis talks with some of the key leaders, in the hopes that the elections will still occur on time. At a news briefing in Washington D.C., State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley suggested that Gration believes the elections can be salvaged. He called the political situation in Sudan extremely fluid, also stating that the announced decisions of the political parties to boycott the elections are not necessarily final.
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-Emma Smith, STAND National Sudan Education Coordinator