Opposition demands drastic reforms to allow free elections in Sudan
(By Radio Dabanga)
The joint opposition in Northern Sudan requests a complete overhaul of all laws touching the freedoms of people in order to transform the country democratically. After a lengthy meeting on Thursday, the so-called Sudanese National Consensus Forces that include all opposition parties except SPLM, published a paper that sums up all their demands. The national elections due the 11th of April are essentially an uncontested race for President Omar al Bashir of the NCP who is accused by all other parties of having overseen a flawed electoral process and rigged the vote.The four main opposition parties have announced they will boycott the entire elections. Some parties will continue with voting at the local level. Only the Popular Congress Party of the former ally of President Omar Al Bashir, Hassan Al Turabi, will continue its participation in the presidential elections. The SPLM has quitted the presidential race and will boycott the elections in Darfur. Contradictory remarks from SPLM officials meant uncertainty for whether the SPLM will boycott the elections at more places in the North. Despite the differences within the opposition they all agreed that the elections will not be fair and free and that the process has to be reviewed. The major demands of the joint opposition are:
- Form a new National Elections Commission from persons who are known for their integrity, independence and competence
- Put all state media under the control of the National Elections Commission
- Provide a solution for Darfur before elections take place
- Solve all disputes concerning the population count (census) in order to establish geographic constituencies for the assemblies according to reality
The letter of the Sudanese National Consensus Forces was signed on 1 April in Omdurman.
Joint Statement by Opposition Parties, 1 April 2010, Omdurman
The Sudanese National Consensus Forces have agreed on the importance of reforming all the laws related to freedoms and democratic transformation to conform with the interim constitution as a pre-condition to their participation in the upcoming elections. Of critical importance will be reform of the National Security Act – the Criminal Act – the Criminal Procedures Act – Trade Unions Act – Immunity Law – Family Law – Press & Printed Materials Act – Public Order Acts at the states’ level.
In addition to the condition above, the agreement stated the importance of the following pre-requisites for an inclusive electoral process that is free and fair:
a) Solution to the Darfur Problem
b) The demarcation of boundaries between the North and South
c) A political agreement to address the dispute over the population census
d) Reinstate the independence of the civil service, especially the media. Addressing this by placing them under the supervision of the National Elections Commission, in adequate time before the elections, to ensure equitable distribution of time between the competing parties.
Moreover, the meeting of the National Consensus Forces that took place at the headquarters of the National Umma Party on the 17th of January, 2010, re-iterated the Parties’ conviction that the fundamental requirements for conducting fair and free elections do not exist. The meeting also re-confirmed that the National Elections Commission has shown time and time again lack of managerial, press and media capabilities in addition to it transgressing the Electoral law. As a result of these weaknesses and the commission’s inability to ensure its independence, great distortions in the elections registry have taken place, a matter that the election commission itself could not address in spite of the repeated objections and appeals in this regard. The National Consensus Forces confirmed their insistence on the implementation of the above demands as a pre-requisite for ensuring the fairness and integrity of the elections process even if that entailed its postponement to November, 2010. In spite of these clear transgressions, the National Consensus Forces continued engaging in the elections process hoping that reform would take place.
More recently, a critically important and decisive meeting was held by the National Consensus Forces at the headquarters of the Original Democratic Unionist Party (Dar Abu Jalabia). In his address to the meeting, Sayed Mohamed Osman Al-Mirghani called for the importance of correcting the mistakes of the Commission and its transgression of the Election Law. Accordingly, the National Consensus Forces discussed the matter and addressed the Commission informing it of their refusal of its Circular on the Electoral campaign. To this end, a memorandum was delivered and signed by leaders of the Sudanese National Consensus Forces including some of those Presidential candidates running as ‘independents in the election. The memorandum, comprehensive in nature, was delivered on Thursday 4th March in a mass procession. The memorandum included the transgressions committed, to date, by the Commission in addition to the package of reforms required for the elections to be inclusive and fair. The Commission was given one week to respond and on the 11th March, its response came in the form of justifications for its transgressions thus confirming its incompetence and refusal to reform the Registry and the rules of the elections process.
ADMISSION OF ERRORS IN THE POPULATION CENSUS AND THE PARTIAL POSTPONEMENT OF THE ELECTION
Under pressure from the SPLM and fearing the repercussions of their withdrawal from the elections process in Southern Kordofan, the Presidency, decided to postpone the state level executive and legislative elections in that state. The decision was taken without consultation with the National Election Commission and it was announced that the population census would be repeated in the state and the number of geographic constituencies would be increased. By doing so without amending the Electoral Law, the Presidency is tacitly admitting to a faulty census. Moreover, the Presidency has announced its intention to rectify the faulty result in the population census in Southern Sudan through the appointment of a number of forty seats without going through the elections process so as to increase the share of the South in the National Assembly. Such a move is in clear violation of the Electoral Law and the Interim Constitution and would again be without the involvement of the National Elections Commission which is further evidence of the lack of respect for the process of democratic transformation and the unconstitutional nature of the process. It also confirms that the Commission is NOT independent. This was all not accompanied by any practical steps to call on the National Assembly to review the constitution and the accompanying laws – all of which raises suspicion as to the true intentions of the National Congress Party towards that agreement.
On-the-ground experience has proven that the security situation in Darfur is not stable and that it will not be possible to conduct elections there which will reflect the true weight of the Darfurian peoples because registration of voters in the region left out almost 60% – those refugees and internally displaced Darfurians. Moreover, the implications of elections in the Darfur region on the on-going Doha peace talks must be taken into consideration as all the Darfur rebel movements are demanding a postponement. The repercussions of insisting on conducting elections that are partial and unrepresentative of the Darfur people can take the form of resurgence in violence that will end all efforts to a peaceful solution in the Darfur crisis.
PREPARATION AND ARRANGEMENTS FOR ELECTION RIGGING THE NATIONAL ELECTION COMMISSION:
• The National Election Commission has failed to perform its role in a professional manner, and through its actions has proven that it lacks capacity and is not only biased towards, but is infiltrated and directed by the NCP. It has contravened many of the articles of the Election Law and has rejected several memorandums presented to it to rectify the situation without acceptable justification.
• The gravest contravention committed by the Commission was its transferral of the tender award for Lot 1 of the ballot cards (Executive Posts) from the international firm which was the legitimate winner of the tender to the Sudanese Currency Printing Press thus placing the entire election process in the hands of the NCP.
• The Commission also contrived to reduce the total number of polling stations by 50% thus indicating that the location of polling stations has been distributed in a manner that constrains the voting of the followers of other political parties (non-NCP). For example the Commission removed 75 polling stations covering 8 geographical constituencies out of a total of 14 constituencies in North Kordofan.
• The Commission has contravened many of the articles of the Electoral Act:
Article (22) of the Electoral Act which states that the registration of voters should take place in accordance with their place of residence. The Commission contravened this article through approval of the registration of the regular forces at their duty stations.
Article (66/2) of the Electoral Act which guarantees candidates’ and political parties’ right to equal and fair access to the public press (media) while in reality the media has been monopolized by the ruling party under the unwavering eyes and ears of the Commission.
Article (67/3) which states that a ceiling shall be set and imposed for political parties’ campaign expenditure. The ruling party has expended exorbitantly on its election campaign leading to a situation whereby other candidates have been forced to compete with the ruling party’s candidates that are armed with state infrastructure and resources.
Article (67/C) which states that the government and Government of South Sudan shall contribute financially to the funding of candidates’ and political parties’ election campaigns in an equal manner. The ruling party has expended state resources as they were those of the NCP and deprived all other political parties.
Article (69) which warns against the use of state resources and financial and human public sector resources in election campaigning. We find the ruling party to have used all these capabilities and resources for the funding of its election campaign, whilst also expending exorbitantly on this campaign from public financial resources – actions, all of which are warned against in the letter of the law.
THE ELECTORAL REGISTRY:
The National Election Commission has committed the gravest contravention in its printing of the registration books locally, at the Currency Printing Press. This is a National Security managed and supervised printing house, whose director, Mohamed Hassan al-Bahi, is a Security Service Brigadier. This action has allowed the NCP to run its own parallel registration process which has continued up to this moment. The NCP has succeeded, with the assistance of its associates in the National Election Commission especially those in the Commission’s technical departments, to undertake a huge forgery operation on the electoral registry through the dropping of names; their transfer from one location to another, and the addition of new names. This operation led to the Carter Center’s warning that the electronic register was inconsistent with the handwritten register, and that the names of many had disappeared, giving an example that in Warrab State alone 78,000 names had been dropped, and another in which 2,800 of the 3,000 names registered in Medina, under the written certification of the Sudanese Embassy in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, had also been dropped.
All these reasons combined have led the Sudanese National Consensus Forces to reconfirm their conditions for participation in the elections. They have, therefore, agreed on the following:
1) Reconfirming its strong commitment to full, free and fair elections and to conducting the referendum on Southern Sudan’s Right to Self Determination that is to be held in January 2011 as this is the only peaceful way to end the crisis of governance in the country and to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace and a voluntary unification of the country.
2) Practical experience has shown that (i) the political and legal environment in the country are not conducive to conducting free and fair elections; (ii) the dispute over the population census has led to the postponement of elections in Southern Kordofan and to a reduction in the share of the South in the National Assembly in accordance with the peace agreement; (iii) the shaky state of security in Darfur and continued state of emergency together with renewed violence in the area will greatly hamper, if not, totally stop the elections process in Greater Darfur. This, of course, could hinder the election process and the participation of Darfurians and will reduce the legitimacy of the election process itself.
Accordingly, the Sudanese National Consensus Forces have decided the following:
a) Rejection and boycotting of the partial and farcical elections that the NCP insists to impose on April 11, 2010. This election lacks the minimum fundamental requirements of a free and fair election. It is meant to reproduce the NCP-one party rule in a democratic robe thus escalating the crisis of governance in the country. This stance is taken by the National Consensus Forces so as not to participate in the falsification of the will of the Sudanese people and to distance themselves from threats to the stability of Sudan’s structure by a continuation of the war in Darfur and a return to war in south Sudan.
b) It is a matter of national interest that the elections be postponed from April 11, 2010 to the following November to allow for the fulfillment of the conditions necessary for its integrity, fairness and full country coverage. This must also be in line with the political arrangements stated below.
c) There are parties from the forces of national consensus that have decided to participate in the elections. These parties remain in consensus with the rest of the alliance that neither is the election fair nor is the Commission unbiased, but which are participating in order to continue the mobilization of their supporters, to document all committed violations and to express their resistance through the electoral process. There are other parties yet to complete consultations within their internal organs but have agreed to do so and to declare their final position within the next 24 hours.
d) It is a necessity to have an agreement on political arrangements to serve as a basis for a fair and free election that leads to an exit from Sudan’s current crisis and enables it to:
1) Find a just and comprehensive solution to the Darfur crisis as well as allow for the participation of its peoples in the elections.
2) Fulfill the major tenets of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement particularly those parts related to democratic transformation, the sustainability of peace in the south and achieving voluntary unity. Commitment also to implementation of all the other agreements (Abuja – the East – Cairo – Djibouti) in order to create the needed conducive political and legal environment for conducting free and fair elections.
3) Review the current Electoral Act with the objective of addressing the gaps and shortcomings that have appeared upon implementation.
4) Form a new National Election Commission from persons who are known for their integrity, independence and competence. A Commission that enjoys national consensus and that will correct the mistakes that have accompanied the current electoral process (electoral registry – division of geographical constituencies). This new Commission is to conduct full elections – free and fair – no later than end of November, 2010 with endorsement of the share of the South being one third (as stated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement) for representation of the South in the National Parliament.
5) Conduct the Referendum on Self Determination as originally planned in January 2011 as well as public consultations in each of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Sudanese National Consensus Forces April 1, 2010 – Omdurman
The Parties and Organizations that Attended the Meeting Number Party/Organization 1 National Umma Party 2 Popular Congress Party 3 Democratic Unionist Party (Original) 4 Communist Party 5 Umma Party (Reform and Renewal) 6 New Democratic Forces Movement 7 United Unionist Party 8 Justice Party 9 Sudanese Congress Party 10 United Democratic Unionist Party 11 Trade Unions Alliance 12 Sudanese Baathist Party (Mohamed Ali Jadein) 13 National Democratic Alliance 14 Sudanese Baathist Party (el-Tijani Mustafa) 15 Sudanese National Alliance 16 Nasserist Unionist Party 17 The Legitimate Workers’ Union 18 Executive Committee for Dismissed Civil Servants 19 National Committee for Dismissed Civil Servants
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