(By Radio Dabanga)
The Northern opposition parties will join the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in boycotting the presidential elections in Sudan, they announced after a Thursday meeting of the major opposition figures. The withdrawal of the opposition candidates will leave Omar Al Bashir essentially unchallenged in the presidential race, except for Hassan Al Turabi of the Popular Congress Party.
SPLM had already announced a boycott yesterday, removing Yassir Arman from the contest and boycotting all levels in Darfur. That decision pre-empted a joint opposition decision that was supposed to be made today. Withdrawing from the elections today are presidential candidates Sadiq al-Mahdi (Umma Party), Hatem Al Sir (DUP), Mubarak Al Fadil (Umma Renewal and Reform Party), and Ibrahim Nugud (Communist Party).
Their decision came despite an appeal by the United States Envoy to Sudan not to boycott the elections. Scott Gration on Thursday in Khartoum met major opposition leaders and senior National Congress Party officials including Presidential Advisor Ghazi Saleh al Din. His visit was interpreted by some observers as a bid to preserve the faltering elections process. However, Ghazi denied that Gration delivered a proposal concerning the election and said the election will be held on the day originally planned.
Mubarak Al Fadil, who met today with the envoy, said that Gration explained how the United States can help Sudanese to create fair and free elections, solve the problem of registration and ballot printing problems. He also disclosed that Gration affirmed that parts of Darfur can join the election. Most of the estimated 2.6 million internally displaced (IDPs) living in camps, as well as people from groups hostile to the NCP living in insecure neighbourhoods of cities and rebel-controlled areas were not counted in the census nor registered to vote, according to an assessment compiled by the International Crisis Group.
Mohamed Osman al Merghani of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said that he and Gration discussed the election and democratic transformation. He said he assured Gration that he wants to keep Sudan united despite voices to divide South Sudan and Darfur. Merghani welcomed the position of the SPLM to boycott the election in Darfur and stressed the need to have an review of the position of the National Election Commission (NEC).
On Monday, Bashir said that holding the elections was “a national obligation.” Elections will go forward beginning April 11 unless perhaps there is a slight delay for logistical reasons or a political deal is struck to postpone them until after the rainy season. That is unlikely given the breach that seems to have widened between SPLM and NCP, the two parties currently sharing power.