Sudan will hold elections in less than three weeks, and uncertainties regarding both process and politics remain.
First, US groups are expressing concerns about security and fairness. The Carter Center recently stated that “logistical preparations are straining the limited capacity of the [National Elections Commission]. With a series of delays and changes in polling procedures,” their statement continued, “a minor delay in polling for operational purposes may be required.” Human Rights Watch has said that “both the Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan are violating rights and restricting freedoms critical to a fair poll, including freedoms of expression and of assembly.”
These statements prompted a harsh response from President Omar al-Bashir:
Al-Bashir has threatened to kick out foreign election monitors, after they suggested next month’s vote should be delayed.
Mr Bashir said if the observers intervened in Sudan’s affairs, “we will cut off their fingers and crush them under our shoes”.
Second, intense campaigning in North and South Sudan has revealed something about the strengths and weaknesses of the different parties involved. VOA argues that for the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the South,
[The] main threat in the polls comes not from without, but within. A heavily-criticized behind-closed-doors party nomination process has pushed disgruntled party politicians into declaring themselves independent candidates for the region’s governorships. Some, local analysts say, could win.
Internal SPLM rivalries may not hurt the party much in this election, but could loom larger during the referendum on Southern independence – and after.
Analysts say the glue holding the party together remains the region’s quest for self-determination, fueled by deep resentment against the country’s northern rulers. Many think the real test for southerners will arise in the possible event the region achieves political separation, when many fear the region could begin fragmenting into competing interests.
The former rebels are vulnerable to inner strife, as indicated by the splinter independent candidates. Deep tribal tensions simmer under the region’s political surface, and the region carries a long history of bloody ethnic-based divisions.
Meanwhile, arrests of opposition activists continue in the North. It’s hard for me to tell how much support some of these opposition groups have, but repeated arrests and protests contribute to a tense pre-election atmosphere.
For more on process issues, see this post at Making Sense of Sudan.