Sudan: Voters boycott sham election

April 19, 2015
Voters in Sudan's elections. Media and opposition groups reported low participation.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) persisted with April 13-15 national elections, despite widespread condemnation of the process from inside and outside the country.

Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, contested the presidency among 15 mostly unknown candidates.

The election was boycotted by opposition groups. They have called for an inclusive consultation process to resolve the country’s substantial problems, establishing a transitional government, and immediately ending the repression of dissent as prerequisites for free and fair elections.

During the months before the election, opposition activists were arrested, newspaper print runs confiscated and political meetings shut down. The armed forces have continued its onslaught on Darfur, in Sudan’s West, and South Kordofan and Blue Nile state in the country’s south. The regime has also engineered widespread economic disaster, devastating much of the population.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s head of foreign affairs, said of the EU’s resolution not to send an election monitoring team: “When dialogue is bypassed, some groups are excluded and civil and political rights are infringed, the upcoming elections cannot produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country.”

Opposition groups criticised the African Union’s decision to send a delegation to observe the elections, and a statement of concern was signed by 25 human rights organisations from at least nine African nations. The AU’s own mission to evaluate Sudan’s pre-election environment concluded that security measures “do not provide an environment for free participation in the electoral process” and advised against sending AU monitors.

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North vowed to disrupt the elections in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state. On April 15, the National Elections Commission (NEC) confirmed that the SPLM-N had attacked three polling stations in South Kordofan, seizing election materials.

Media and opposition groups reported low participation in the first two days of polling. On the final day of scheduled voting, the NEC announced that voting would be extended.

The regime instructed the media not to report on the low voter turnout. Taking photographs at polling stations was banned after images of poll staff sleeping at empty polling booths were spread through social media.

The NCP deployed about 60,000 police in Khartoum to defend the electoral process. Dozens of members of opposition parties were arrested.

The low turnout occurred despite cash incentives provided to NCP members who lured voters to polling booths, and threats issued to reluctant voters in poor areas.

An April 14 statement issued by the Sudan Call forces — which bring together the National Consensus Forces (a coalition of opposition parties), armed opposition groups from Darfur, Blue Nile State and South Kordofan, and civil society organisations — credited the low voter turnout to its “Leave” boycott campaign.

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