Thursday, April 1, 2010
Al Jazeera asked me to comment yesterday on the announcement that Yasir Arman, the candidate for president of Sudan from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) had pulled out of the election on the grounds that it would not be free and fair. I responded that this is a setback for the democratic process but acknowledged that the election would be far from ideal in the best of circumstances. The April election will be Sudan's first real election since 1986. In addition to organizational issues, it will probably be impossible to organize balloting in Darfur and perhaps even some locations in southern Sudan. Nevertheless, abandonment of the race by the SPLM candidate virtually assures that President Bashir (pictured) will win on the first ballot. While there are several other presidential candidates, even collectively they are not likely to win more than 50 percent of the vote, which would force a second round of balloting for the top two candidates. Image: President Bashir in 2008. Credit: Ammar Abd Rabbo. Creative Commons licensed Flickr content. The SPLM and some Darfur groups called earlier for the postponement of the election. This poses a dilemma as the important vote by southerners on secession from Sudan is scheduled to take place in January 2011. If national elections do not take place in April, Bashir has said there will be no southern vote on secession in January 2011. The national elections may still go forward without an SPLM candidate. If that happens, the referendum could still take place on schedule. It is clear, however, that the SPLM is only interested in the vote for secession and not the outcome of the April national elections.