The African Union (AU) Election Observation Mission acknowledged a lack of space to ‘serious opponents’ of Sudan’s ruling party in the presidential and parliamentary election, held during the past four days. The AU wants Sudan to ease policies 'that are deemed restrictive to the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms’.
The Election Observation Mission noticed ‘a generally low turnout of voters throughout the voting days. This observation holds good for both rural and urban polling environments’, it writes in a statement released by the AU. It is generally expected that the results will lead to another term of five years for incumbent President Omar Al Bashir, who has been fighting an insurgency in several areas of Sudan.
The monitors, led by the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, did not qualify the election as ‘free and fair’. After the last election in 2010, however, they congratulated Sudan for the ‘multi-party election’. This year, all influential and major opposition parties boycotted the election. The weekend preceding the first election day, scores of opposition members and civil society activists were detained or arrested. Demonstrations were not permitted by the security apparatus.
The AU was criticised by human rights organisations for officially monitoring the election, automatically authorising the election process.
The observers noted that the general election in Sudan did not attract a lot of international observers outside of Africa, except from China and the Arab League. Domestic observers were few or even completely absent. In most polling stations, mainly representatives of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) were present.
‘The AU Observation Mission reached the conclusion that the results of the election would reflect the expression of the will of the voters of Sudan.’
‘The low voter turnout may be attributed to the boycott by some opposition parties and civil society organisations. While a winner will eventually emerge, victory that is based on a majority of the registered voters is desirable, and reflects the will of the populace in their numbers,‘ the AU observers concluded, suggesting that the current outcome of the election might not reflect the popular will of the Sudanese population.
They concluded a second statement, however, saying the mission ‘reached the conclusion that the results of the election would reflect the expression of the will of the voters of Sudan’. On a positive note, the AU mission witnessed an ‘impressive participation of women in the process on election days as polling officials, security officials, agents, and voters.’
Sceptical about extension
The extension of the voting days was received with scepticism by the monitors: ‘In [the] future, decision to extend voting period should be made and disseminated in time to stakeholders and must be based on sufficient reasons.’
Furthermore, the observation mission criticised the ‘inadequate’ period provided to the National Election Commission (NEC) for a ‘thoroughgoing and inclusive process’ of the review of the voters roll. It further noted with concern the powers of President Al Bahir to remove members of the NEC from office: ‘Such power is susceptible to abuse.’
The mission will continue to observe the post-electoral developments, and plans to release a more detailed report within a month’s timeframe.