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Sudan Election Results – Another Step Along Uncertain Road

IPS Correspondents

JUBA, South Sudan, Apr 27 2010 (IPS) - A convoy of Omar al-Bashir supporters, hooting and chanting party slogans as it drove through Khartoum, drew only disinterested stares en route to a celebration at party headquarters on Apr. 26

Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Government of South Sudan, votes on the first day of polling. Credit:  Timothy Mckulka/UNMIS

Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Government of South Sudan, votes on the first day of polling. Credit: Timothy Mckulka/UNMIS

Vehicles in Juba, draped with the flag of semiautonomous South Sudan, evoked a stronger response as supporters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) celebrated a sweep of the majority of the seats in the south.

According to official results, the incumbent Bashir got 68 percent of the votes cast nationwide for the presidency. Salva Kiir, running to retain his position as head of the Government of Southern Sudan, received a record 93 percent of the votes in the south.

Both were declared winners on Apr. 26 by the chairperson of the National Election Commission (NEC) Abel Alier.

Donning a white turban and flowing gown for a TV appearance, Bashir looked as relaxed as if he had overturned the warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

But his electoral triumph will not banish his problems. The war crimes charges remain, and he must now contend allegations of rigging the elections and the possible disintegration of the Sudan.

While the SPLM achieved all it wanted from this poll, retaining power in the South ahead of a 2011 referendum on the future of the region, the defeated opposition in the rest of the country does not mean to go quietly.

“We will go to court. If the judges do not rule in our favour, we will employ other alternatives to address the election problems,” warned renowned Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, who heads the Popular Congress Party on Apr.18. He did not elaborate.

Other opposition political parties have expressed mixed reactions to the outcome of the elections.

Many of them have accused the United States and other external actors of imposing the country’s two dominant parties – the National Congress Party (NCP) in the north and the SPLM in the south – on the Sudan. The party of the former Prime Minister Sadiq al Mahdi, who was toppled by Bashir in 1989 claims the United States’ preoccupation is to pave the way for the breakup of the country.

Southerners will hold a referendum in January 2011 to decide on whether to establish their own state or remain part of the Sudan.

The majority of international observers have criticised the elections as failing to meet international standards while recognising their largely peaceful conduct as an important achievement.

There were widespread reports of problems with ballot papers, candidates appearing on papers in more than one constitutency; voters being unable to find their names on lists and election observers in at least one case being denied entry to voting centres. Voting was extended by two days in recognition of the impact of these problems.

“We cannot say that the Sudanese elections have met international standards, but that does not reduce what has happened, which is an important transition,” Salah Halima, the head of the Arab League mission, said in a statement after the voting exercise.

The African Union was, typically, more generous. “What happened in Sudan was a historical event and a great achievement for Sudanese people,” said Kunle Adeyemi, a spokesperson of the AU observer mission in Sudan chaired by John Kufuor, the former president of Ghana.

“Looking into the fact this is a country that had not had a multi-party election for almost a generation… to say they are free and fair, to the best of our knowledge we have no reason to think the contrary,” Adeyemi added.

In the South, the SPLM took steps to ensure women filled a 25 percent quota of representation at all levels of government. Nyandeng Malek won the governorship of Warrap State where SPLM head Kiir comes from.

An unexpected loser was Jemma Nunu Kumba, the governor of Western Equatoria state, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Kumba is known for her determination to drive Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) out of bases they established in South Sudan. Although president Kiir personally campaigned for her, she was defeated by an independent candidate, Colonel Joseph Bokosoro.

All eyes are now focused on the referendum which is scheduled for January 2011.

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