Sudan's election: Where do we go from here?

Sudan's election: Where do we go from here?
Comment: This election might be intended as an expensive piece of political theatre, but it might also open the door, even if just a crack, to real change.
4 min read
16 Mar, 2015
The election will reportedly cost $86 million [AFP]

Over the past few days, I could not stop thinking about a question a friend in Khartoum asked me: "You people who live abroad can see the state of the country more clearly that we at home can. So where do we go from here?"

It is a simple question, but there are many important causes and implications involved.

In addition to the political chaos, economic collapse, and deteriorating living standards in Sudan, the ruling National Congress Party is determined to hold presidential elections on April 13.

The elections have caused further concern and apprehension for Sudan's political future, and they cannot provide any real long-term solutions.

For one thing, the current political crisis in Sudan dates back to the military coup led by the Islamic Front in 1989, which remains in power. For another, Omar al-Bashir's tenure has brought nothing new and produced no positive achievements - even as the 71-year-old seeks another term in office.

The proliferation of candidates

The current political crisis in Sudan dates back to the military coup led by the Islamic Front in 1989, which remains in power.

The most striking thing about the anticipated election is the number of unknown candidates who are supposedly running against Bashir, but whose presence only increases confusion regarding the country's future.

One such independent candidate, Mohammad Awad al-Baroudi, is a former member of the ruling party and has explicitly said "citizens are not convinced about the value of the elections".

Describing the elections as "dead", Baroudi said the citizenry remains uninterested in the elections, as they are doubtful they are fair.

This is an accurate description by a presidential candidate, capturing the Sudanese people's mood and perception of the elections. It is also completely in line with the perception of the opposition forces, which not only refuse to take part in the election, but have also launched a campaign calling on Bashir to step down.

The campaign has been received well on the Sudanese street, often more known for its political awareness than the official opposition forces themselves. The Sudanese people are generally aware the election is tightly choreographed in advance, and are tailored to the measurements of one man, Bashir.

The youth movement "Change Now" expresses this popular awareness.

Change Now says that the cost of the election ($86 million, according to the electoral commission) is an "unnecessary waste of public funds" that could otherwise go to help schools lacking in many basic needs. "The sum is enough to craft 2,000,000 chairs, 750,000 tables and 300,000 blackboards," a statement read.

It seems the absence of popular interest in the elections is causing the leaders of the ruling party something of a headache, as indicated by the unfortunate and contemptuous discourse and threats they have been voicing against opponents.

The ruling party's press secretary described those boycotting the elections as 'the lowest of the low'.

Mustafa Osman Ismail, head of the political sector of al-Bashir's party, not only explicitly attacked the press that criticised statements by the ruling party's press secretary, but also threatened to "break any hand" laid on the ruling party.

The ruling party's press secretary, Yasser Abkar, had described those boycotting the elections as "the lowest of the low".

The dismal discourse

This and other threats can only mean one thing: that the dismal discourse of the leaders of the Islamic movement in Sudan remains unchanged, and that the elections will change nothing in the ruling party's plans for the political process in Sudan.

There will be no change and there will be no appeasement, let alone accepting the fundamental idea behind elections - to allow the bare minimum of freedom and change of which the Sudanese people have long dreamt.

Who knows? Perhaps this abusive, condescending, and arrogant language that has nothing but contempt for established political values will pave the way for change. To be sure, all the ingredients for change are present, and the situation is open to all possibilities.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.