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Alawiyah Mukhtar

Sudan begins voting in election al-Bashir expected to win

Omar al-Bashir arrived to vote on the first day of the Sudanese elections (Al-Araby)

Date of publication: 13 April, 2015

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Sudanese began voting Monday in an election expected to be won by President Omar al-Bashir, with opposition parties boycotting the poll.

Sudanese presidential and parliamentary elections kicked off on Monday, with President Omar al-Bashir likely to extend his long-standing rule of the country, amid a boycott led by opposition political parties.

Sixteen candidates are vying for the presidency, but the majority are independents unknown to the Sudanese public and unlikely to challenge Bashir. The National Umma party, led by Sadiq al-Mahdi, and Hassan al-Turabi's National Congress Party are leading the opposition boycott.

The first day of the three-day poll has been quiet, with a public holiday declared by the government.

Bashir, facing his second contested ballot since taking power in 1989, has already voted. He arrived at the St Francis School in the morning, with only a small number of voters in attendance, something replicated in other polling stations.

“Everyone knows the result,” Mutawakil Babikir, a 43-year-old shopkeeper in Omdurman, told AFP.

Some of those who spoke to al-Araby al-Jadeed in Khartoum were not even aware of the election date, although others confirmed that they would be voting.

Mukhtar al-Assam, the head of the National Election Commission, predicted that the turnout would not exceed 45 percent of the 13.3 million eligible voters in the country.

The National Commission had noted that elections in seven districts in South Kordofan were cancelled because of the ongoing conflict in the state between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-North).

The Revolutionary Front, which consists of the SPLM-North and armed groups in Darfur, said that it would resist the elections by force, and the SPLM-North has already carried out attacks in South Kordofan. Security forces have sent reinforcements there, as well as to Darfur and to Blue Nile.

The police have already said that 75,000 officers and troops have been deployed to secure the election.

Boycott

Most of the opposition, including the Umma Party, the Communist Party, the Popular Congress Party and Reform Now, have declared that they will boycott the polls, with a broad consensus among them elections will be “futile”.

Shortly before the start of election campaigning the Sudan Call opposition coalition launched a parallel campaign called “Leave” to convince Sudanese voters to boycott today's elections. They held a number of seminars in Sudanese states, although the authorities cracked down on some events.

Ghazi Salah al-Din, the leader of Reform Now, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the elections would make Sudan's problems worse.

“These elections are divisive... and are taking place in a climate of war,” Salah al-Din said. “This means they are less likely to solve the country's problems and more likely to compound them.”

Referring to the European Union's statement that the elections would not produce a “credible” result, Salah al-Din said that the vote will not meet international standards.

“The elections were preceded by measures that undermine their credibility, including the constitutional amendments,” in reference to government-sponsored amendments that abolished the election of state governors.

Norway, the United States and Britain, the so-called Sudan Troika states, will not observe the elections, along with the EU.

“An environment conducive to participatory and credible elections does not exist,” the Sudan Troika said.

There was some unrest in the eastern city of Port Sudan, as police broke up a small student demonstration against the elections on Sunday, witnesses said.

Residents of the Kalma displaced persons' camp in South Darfur also held a peaceful protest against the vote at the headquarters of the peacekeeping force that provides their security.

The presidential election could theoretically go to a second round if no candidate wins a majority, although Bashir is expected to win comfortably. The results are expected in late April.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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