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Elections, independence referendum: critical year ahead for Sudan

2010-01-14 09:29 BJT

KHARTOUM, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- The next 12 months will be critical for Sudan in view of general elections scheduled for April and a referendum on self-determination for south Sudan slated for January 2011.

Local observers said that Sudan would face various challenges in two stages, the first before the general elections and the second between the elections and the referendum, adding that these challenges would reshape Sudan's political landscape.

The general elections will be the first multi-party democratic elections in Sudan since incumbent President Omar al-Bashir took power in 1989.

However, local analysts expect a comfortable win for al-Bashir and his National Congress Party (NCP) if no emergency takes place before the elections.

With the electoral process in Sudan entering a decisive phase, there are still doubts regarding the level of participation of opposition political forces together with their readiness for the elections.

"The political parties, except the NCP (ruling National Congress Party), are not financially or organizationally ready to contest in the elections," Hassan al-Saaoury, a professor of political science at the University of Khartoum told Xinhua on Wednesday.

"Therefore they are seeking to postpone the elections through repeated complaints of possible forgery," he said.

He expected President al-Bashir to win the coming presidential elections, saying "there are three reasons. First there is no prominent rival for al-Bashir. Second the International Criminal Court (ICC) had made al-Bashir a favorite via its arrest warrant against him, and third there are accomplishments achieved during his presidency."

The Sudanese people call the governments formed by al-Bashir since 1989 the "salvation governments," saying they are the most successful ones since the country's independence in view of the achievements in the past 20 years.

Sudan witnessed rapid economic growth, tremendous social changes, and the improvement of living conditions, and particularly the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended a two-decade-long north-south civil war and the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006.

Mahmoud Abdin, a Sudanese political analyst, told Xinhua on Wednesday that there were two major challenges the Sudanese aim to overcome through the general elections -- how to ensure a peaceful transition of power and how to preserve unity and stability of Sudan.

"The coming elections may resolve the issue of the peaceful transition of power, but there are other challenges in this respect, including consolidation of democratic exercise and acceptance of the elections' result, and above all, the issue of how to manage a rational, free and credible electoral process away from negative aspects of violence," he said.

However, local observers believed real challenges would come on the heels of the general elections, the most prominent of which was how to maintain the country's unity, and how to deal with the relations between the north and the south if the southerners decide to break away in the referendum.

"If south Sudan breaks away, there will be a weak and fragmented state which is susceptible to further disorder," Abdin said.

Some 200 people have been killed in two successive tribal fights in south Sudan since the beginning of this year, compared with the killing of more than 1,000 in tribal clashes in the semi-autonomous region last year.

The deaths have aroused deep concerns of the United Nations and the African Union, both of which warned of an escalation of tribal violence if no tangible step was taken by the southern Sudanese government.

Local observers also said external interference, in particular the stances of certain countries towards the situation in Sudan were also critical, forming another major challenge for this African country.

Political analyst Abdul-Rahim al-Sunni told Xinhua that "some countries are expected to intervene for the interest of a particular party."

The United States had expressed no intention to prevent al-Bashir from running for the presidency in the coming elections, local media reported on Wednesday.

Editor: Du Xiaodan | Source: Xinhua