Between the 13th– 16th April, elections were held in Sudan, for the National Assembly and the presidential role. These were the first elections to be held in the country since South Sudan seceded in 2011, and the official results show that Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, has been re-elected with 94 per cent of the vote. The electoral process has been criticised internationally by many Western states, who questioned the fairness and freedom of the electoral environment. The African Union, which monitored the polls, has emphasised the government’s failure in ensuring basic human rights and freedoms are respected.
The elections were scheduled to take place between the 13th and 15th April, but were extended until the 16th April due to the low turnout. The official turnout was 46%, but the real figure is believed to be even lower, with the main opposition parties boycotting the elections following arrests and harassment, and deeming that the process was not free and fair. The National Umma Party and the Popular Congress Party, as well as part of the Democratic Unionist Party have taken part in the boycott, and the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, Minni Minnawi, has called on the international community to reject the results of the latest elections, supporting the “Depart” non-engagement campaign; which is currently gaining momentum in Sudan.
The EU’s High Representative declared that the EU chooses not to engage in supporting the elections. It stated its disappointment in the failure of the Sudanese government to initiate a genuine national dialogue and to respond to the African Union’s efforts to bring all the stakeholders together; thus impeding an inclusive political process. The US, the UK and Norway issued a statement on the 20th April criticising the vote and rejecting the results of the elections, stating that the polls cannot be accepted as a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people.
Whilst most Western countries do not recognize the Sudanese elections, the Arab League and Russia are supporting President Bashir, who has been accused of ordering the genocide and ethnic cleansing during the 2003 conflict in Darfur, which lead to the death of 300,000 people. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir for his involvement in genocide, but the African Union has rejected the ICC attempts to arrest the Sudanese president as he could not be tried while in office due to presidential immunity. As the 71 year old president enjoys the support of the Russian Federation, the Security Council failed to reach a consensus on the issue, forcing the International Criminal Court to drop the investigation into the Darfur conflict in December 2014.
President Bashir denies any involvement in the crimes and declares that the charges against him are politically motivated. The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced the negative response of the international community as disappointing, accusing the international bodies of “bias”; with the Sudanese government affirming that the elections were “a triumph for the consolidation of democracy”. The population, however, perceived the elections with less enthusiasm than the previous vote five years ago, and there is less hope that the elections will change anything. The regime is considered strong enough to survive but unable to implement any genuine political change or cooperate with the fragmented opposition.