SPLM abandons North Sudan elections race

SPLM abandons North Sudan elections race

April 6, 2010 (WAHSINGTON) The dominant political party in South Sudan reached a decision to boycott elections in most of North Sudan following intense deliberations and amid indications of bitter power struggle within the ex Southern rebel group.

Sudan is due to hold its first multi party election since 1986 on Sunday, which will include presidential, legislative and local elections.

Last week, the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) took the surprise decision of withdrawing its presidential candidate Yasir Arman from the race and also announced its boycott of polls in Darfur. Reasons given by the SPLM leadership for the move included irregularities and voter fraud as well as conflict in Sudan Western region.

However, suspicions arose that the SPLM took the decision under pressure from the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to withdraw Arman in return for facilitating South Sudan road to independence following the 2011 referendum in the semi autonomous region.

Last January, the NCP declared its endorsement to SPLM chairman Salva Kiir for South Sudan presidency and urged their partner in the government of national unity to reciprocate in the north by pulling out Arman from contesting against incumbent president Omer Hassan Al Bashir.

The SPLM however denies succumbing to pressure from the NCP. Today the Southern party said it would boycott elections in most states in northern Sudan.

«After reviewing the situation . we the SPLM for the northern sector have arrived at the conclusion to boycott elections in the 13 northern states of Sudan,» excluding the sensitive states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, Pagan Amum, the secretary general, said after a meeting of the SPLM political bureau.

Amum told reporters the party was taking the decision in protest against irregularities in the build up to the vote. The SPLM and opposition parties have accused the NCP of clamping down on campaigning and rigging voter registration and other preparations. The NCP denies the accusations.

«The NCP continues to issue threats to observers . what would happen to Sudanese people?» Amum asked rhetorically, citing worries of vote rigging.

A senior NCP official criticized the decision by the SPLM calling it «unjustified».

«The NCP regrets this decision by the SPLM, and urges the movement to immediately reconsider it,» Ibrahim Ghandour told China Xinhua agency.

«The SPLM seems to reel under internal division which triggered unreasonable and unjustified decisions,» Ghandour, who is in charge of the elections file, said.

He also dismissed the poll rigging claims, saying «the elections have not kicked off yet.»

«If the SPLM boycotts the elections due to rigging in the north, it still runs in the same elections in the south,» he added. president Jimmy Carter that aims to further democracy and human rights, said that it requested a written and public apology for Bashir remarks or else they will reconsider their monitoring mission.

The Sudanese president has twice threatened to mutilate and expel any foreign observers if they call for postponing elections.

«There is no chance to postpone the elections, even if one day.

«[Our government] before expelled the British ambassador and the Canadian ambassador and special envoy of the United Nations . Whoever tries to insult us we will cut off their neck and extend his tongue to abuse us we will cut off his tongue» he added.

The only long term international observer mission in Sudan said last month that Sudan may need a slight delay in its elections to deal with logistical problems, with hundreds of thousands of names missing from the voters list.

Carter Center also officials issued a report saying Sudan April presidential and legislative elections remained «at risk on multiple fronts» and urged Sudan to lift harsh restrictions on rallies and end fighting in Darfur ahead of the ballot.

The NCP and National Election Commission (NEC) have dismissed calls for postponement insisting it will go as planned.

There will be «no delay,» Hadi Mohammed, head of the technical committee of the NEC, told reporters after talks with US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration.

«Preparations are finished,» he said.

Some 50 demonstrators from the Grifna [We are fed up] movement gathered outside the offices of the commission to demand «free and fair» elections, an Agence France Presse (AFP) reporter said. They carried a coffin representing the NEC integrity.

On Saturday, Gration said after meeting members of the commission that he was confident the elections would be as «free and fair as possible» and would start on time and praised done by the board.

However, on Monday the US state department signaled it is open to a slight delay in elections and also urged Sudan to immediately lift restrictions on political parties.

Today decision makes the SPLM the second major party in Sudan to announce some form of boycott to the elections after the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) and the breakaway Umma Reform and Renewal Party (URRP). The mainstream Umma Party led by Al Sadiq Al Mahdi has failed to reach a decision by a self imposed deadline that expired today though it appears likely that it will end up taking part in the elections.

The opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which pulled out of the presidential race last week after the first SPLM boycott, said late on Tuesday it had reversed its decision.

It decided to reinstate its presidential candidate Hatim al Sir after appeals from supporters, party official Salah al Basha told Reuters, without giving details.