A bishop in Sudan raised doubts recently as to the fairness of the country’s recently concluded presidential elections.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum said, “The reports of irregularities make one wonder whether in the end these elections will qualify to be called ‘free and fair.’”
The election is viewed as a trial run for next year’s referendum which could spell independence for the largely Christian and animist southern Sudan. Northern Sudan is primarily Muslim.
Sudanese President President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir
The two had been at war for some 22 years until 2005, causing the death of some two million. President Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir gave the south limited autonomy in a peace deal that included the current presidential elections and next year’s referendum in January for southern Sudan’s independence.
Sudan has five million Catholics. Since 2005, Christian schools in northern Sudan are obligated to teach Islam, and converts from Islam to Christianity face criminal charges and death at the hands of their families. The south enjoys religious freedom.
Ahead of polling, two key Bashir challengers — the Umma Party’s Sadiq al-Mahdi and Yasser Arman of the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – withdrew. This paved the way for a near-certain Bashir victory.
The polls, the first competitive elections in 24 years, were marked with distrust, said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who led a delegation from the Carter Center to monitor the elections.
Carter said “It is obvious that the elections will fall short of international standards.” Chief EU election monitor Veronique de Keyser echoed Carter’s assessment.
Still, Carter said the vote provided the Sudanese people with “an opening to participate and present their views.” He said, “My belief is that most of the international community, as represented by their governments, will accept the result of the election.”
Some of the irregularities cited by the Carter Center and the EU were:
- The process lacked sufficient safeguards and transparency.
- Problems cited with ink, ballot box seals and voter identification.
- Unequal resourcing and treatment by the authorities.
- Problems verifying voters’ identity when registration certificates were issued.
- Reports of underage voters casting ballots.
- Some evidence of election officials deliberately misrepresenting the desires of some voters.
- Intimidation, threats and use of force in the South.
- State interference in the campaigns of opposition candidates largely in the South.
- Much of Darfur was left out of the process.
- Serious technical and procedural violations during the polling.
- The boycott by the opposition, which accused Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party of fraud.
- The election fell short of Sudan’s obligations and related international standards.
Both Carter and the EU monitors agreed nonetheless that the election process was a step in the right direction for Africa’s largest and long war torn country.
Bishop in Sudan voices concerns over election (Aid to the Church in Need)