2008 General Elections: What Are The Scenarios Awaiting Us?
As stipulated in the monumental CPA of Naivasha and as declared by both parties of the ruling partnership, the year 2008 will witness an unprecedented and internationally-monitored general election in the Sudan. In other words, the Sudanese people in that year will cast their votes to elect the President of the country, members of both upper and lower houses of the National Parliament, states governors, members of statesí assemblies, counties commissioners, payams administrators, city councils members; in addition, the people of southern Sudan will also cast their votes to elect a president for the Government of Southern Sudan and members of the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly. As a matter of fact, this kind of election has never happened in the history of Sudan as we know it today and will of course mark a defining moment that will transform the current Sudan of tyranny and despotism into a more just, prosperous, and more democratic Sudan, should I be bold enough I would called the coming Sudan Ďthe Sudan of the marginalized.í However, transformation of a country like Sudan wonít be easy, it has started with the liberation wars and must be completed now through this window of opportunity availed by the CPA, i.e., the coming general election is no less than the war we fought itself. Of course, the said general election will pose a great challenge to our NCP-controlled electoral system if at all we have one, because the NCP will definitely work hard to see into it that the whole process is abrogated in a tireless quest to preserve the current status quo. In preempt, the SPLM should come out with a comprehensive stratagem for election and see into it that the process is carried out as it should. So, the SPLM must press hard in the GoNU to make sure that the census and the south-north border demarcation are carried out as soon as possible. Equally, the SPLM preparedness for elections is of tremendous importance to many Sudanese especially in Southern Sudan, Southern Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains, and other marginalized areas in the country. Due to the extensiveness of our topic and in order to avoid circumlocution, we will group the above tasks and address them as follows:
1.) Census and the south-north border demarcation
2.) Payams, Counties, and Statesí elections
3.) South Sudanís Presidential and Parliamentary elections
4.) National Presidential and Parliamentary elections
5.) SPLM preparedness for elections (would-be SPLMís candidates)
Census and the south-north border demarcation:
The importance of census in any system, which uses election as its channel for choosing government officials, canít be emphasized any further for it is self luminous. It is a known fact that through census we can properly allocate seats for constituencies according to population records; in addition, census outcome helps the government to distribute services equally and effectively. Therefore, a proper, inclusive, and far-reaching census should be carried out as soon as possible since we are now only one year away from elections; in fact, such a census should have been completed, at least by now, had we been serious. As a matter of fact, all previous censuses in the Sudan were either intentionally exclusive and incomplete in order for some quarters to achieve political overrepresentation, or were inaccurate and misrepresenting due to a mere lack of proper mechanisms. The coming census, however, should be carried out in a way that will ensure that every Sudanese is counted so that every region or state would get its exact share of power in all levels of government be it payams, counties, states, or the National Government. This will definitely be a great accomplishment if carried out in a meticulously planned manner.
Regarding the south-north border, it is indispensable that we (the SPLM) should press hard to ensure that the south-north border is demarcated now, or otherwise everything else regarding the CPA will be but a mirage. The reasons why border demarcation is important are countless but one reason of immediate urgency now is the fact that border demarcation will identify who is a southerner and who is not; in other words, who will vote as a southerner in Southern Sudan presidential and parliamentary elections and who wonít. And of course, demarcation of the south-north border will be of great importance in the referenda to come and in oil sharing (do not count here).
These two steps of census and south-north border demarcation must take place no later than eight month from now if we want the upcoming general election to be meaningful.
Payams, counties, and statesí elections:
One of the greatest and monumental achievements of the CPA is its maximum dissolution of power, i.e., every level of government according to the CPA is designed to be a quasi-autonomy which shall have an elected government that shall, in turn, be accountable to the people of that particular level of government be it payams, counties, or a states. A system with an absolute magnificence that is going to trigger the emergence of a giant African democracy in the Sudan, should it be put in practice correctly.
At payamsí level, especially in Southern Sudan, the contestants in most payams will mostly come from one clan or even one sub-clan given the tribal and clannish nature of the demography of Southern Sudan. Consequently, the campaign for and election of the payamsí administrators and payamsí council members will be much easier than that of, letís say, a flamboyant campaign for governorship of a state, given the homogeneity of most payamsí populations compared to those of states. It could be predicted, therefore, that payams of the south are going to experience less competition and hence less power struggle since southern intellectuals and would-be politicians are always reluctant when it comes to going to the rural areas and the suburbs unlike the northern politicians who would prefer rural areas and suburbs if given choices. For example, a northern politician would prefer to be in charge of a suburb in the hyper-productive rural areas of Al-jezeera State than to be in charge of Medeni City itself. This is what we want our southern payams to look like in the coming few years. Thus, our southern intellectuals who are going to run for public offices should take heed not to look down on payams because there in those payams is where development is much needed.
Coming to the county level, the level of competition will be higher, tougher, and elbow to elbow than that of a payam because of the prestige and adoration that has always been attached with the position of a commissioner. Most of our traditional politicians would fight to death just to obtain commissionership, a position that has been celebrated for so long that it has become a symbol of self-importance for those who were once commissioners. This symbolism, over the years, has created in our communal psyche we southern Sudanese a model that many of us would want to become one, even if precariously. But the truth of the matter is that nothing is so special about commissionership of a county which a payam or other levels of government do not have; instead, the coming commissioners are going to face difficult tasks that could bring disrespect and scorn to any commissioner if he badly performed. This is because the coming commissioners are not going to be appointees like their predecessors who used to disregard their constituencies simply because appointments were made by dictators either in Khartoum or in Nairobi (now Juba), this time any commissioner will have to please his people in his respective county or do otherwise on his own risk!
Regarding the governorship, the race will of course be fierce, intense, and ruthless because this is where our gigantic sharks of politics are going to wrestle. It is evidenced that southern Sudan has too many politicians who are always ready to seek public offices over and over again and hence, the number of candidates for governors is going to be relatively greater. In fact, Omer Al-Bashir has been creating politicians over the years making it hard now to distinguish who is who among these flocks of demagogues who will definitely make a fuss during election time. The SPLM is not innocent either for it has been doing the same thing as Omer Al-Bashir did. Anyway, Sudanese and specially southerners do not have to worry this time because it will be them, not anyone else who will bring up politicians or demote them. It is worth noting also that the would be elected governors in the coming elections are going to be the first governors ever to be chosen by the people of their respective states, this means that whoever politician who was made by somebody else, whether Omer Al-Bashir or else, is not going to stand a chance here unless he/she has his/her own popularity.
Also at the states level, the race for statesí assemblies wonít be as fierce as it is with the governorship for no reason other than that our intellectuals and politicians will have less enthusiasm regarding statesí assemblies because they deem such assemblies peripheral despite the fact that much, if not all, of the statesí affairs will settled in those assemblies.
All in all, these three levels of government namely payam, county, and state are the basic levels of the composite system that ensued from the CPA which will ensure that our infant nation emerges as civilized and prosperous. Thus, preparations should start now in order to make the coming general elections a success in these levels.
Southern Sudan presidential and parliamentary elections:
According to the CPA, the SPLM nominee will assume the presidency of the South irrespective of the outcome of the coming elections in the south; hence, people of the south will be far too reluctant to vote in such a race, but letís just put it in perspective for what will become of it in the future. In normal circumstances, each nominee and his deputy will, intuitively, declare their candidacy ahead of time whether in a party or as independents like what happens here in the US and than run for the post at election time.
For Southern Sudan Assembly, however, the race will be fierce even though the SPLM will still get its 70% share of power regardless of the total outcome of the general elections in the south. But unless the SPLM conventions are held in order to nominate its candidates in each constituency, the SPLM might have multiple candidates in many constituencies in the South, i.e., some SPLM candidates would find themselves rivals in many constituencies. Nevertheless, it will be a great opportunity for southern Sudanese to select good servants (MPs) whether SPLMs or otherwise who will, thereafter, be able to monitor the executive and formulate laws for our infant nation and above all, push the government to deliver services to our suffering people.
National presidential and parliamentary elections:
The race at the national level, whether for presidency or for the two houses, will be harsh and full of surprises because other parties apart from the SPLM and the NCP will influence the outcome of the elections, e.g., the Umma Party, DUP, Popular Congress Party, and the Communist Party, and those of Darfur and eastern Sudan are going to collect some seats.
As a matter of fact, two members from each state of the 25 states that make up the Sudan will be elected to the House of States (senate) while an unspecified number of members will be elected to the National Assembly as shall be decided by the electoral commission in accordance with the outcome of the yet to be lounged census. This is why a proper and fair census should be carried out early so that we know how we will be represented.
For the national presidential race, it will be the same as the race for southern Sudan presidency except for that all Sudanese will vote in it.
SPLM preparedness for elections:
As we have seen above, the extensiveness of the coming general elections will make it hard for the average voter to figure out which is which unless carefully enlightened. Letís see how many votes will any southern Sudanese, for example, cast in the said general elections; essentially, each southerner will vote as follows:
1.) vote for his/her rural council members (Payam)
2.) vote for his/her Payam Administrator
3.) vote for his/her County Commissioner
4.) vote for his/her representative in the State Assembly
5.) vote for his/her Governor
6.) vote for his/her representative in South Sudan Assembly
7.) vote for the President of the GoSS
8.) vote for his/her representative in the National House of States (senate)
9.) vote for his/her representative in the National Assembly
10.) vote for the President of the Sudan
A huge task indeed! This is why we should work hard to make it possible that our people become aware of how much difference their votes can make.
Now, what is the plan of the SPLM for the coming election? A careful observer must have noticed that the SPLM have no plan at all; instead, the SPLM takes things for granted with the belief that its nominees will be elected in all constituencies just simply because they are SPLMs. Well and find but sometimes people do have to plan even if they know what will become of their future. In addition, there are simple facts that force us to think otherwise for it has never been that simple; for instance, most of the then local commanders who will be, in most cases, the SPLM candidates in those local areas are not going to win seats for the SPLM simply because they have developed many problems with the locals over the years. Also, some areas in the south will not vote for the SPLM unless a focused campaign is lounged by the SPLM in order to allay their fears. Furthermore, lack of trained cadres in the SPLM is alarming; for instance, if we look at many nominees of the SPLM for States, South, and the National Assemblies we would shockingly find that many of them were/are just there to fill a position but in the actual sense know nothing about what are there roles. This is why most assemblies are dysfunctional now and hence, many of these unqualified members wonít make it to the same positions through elections. For these reasons and many, many other factors which include the current poor performance of the SPLM-led GoSS, the SPLM has to plan properly in order to emerge victorious in the coming general elections. Here are some suggestions that the SPLM could do for its preparations for the said elections:
1.) Held SPLM conventions in all payams in the South, southern Blue Nile, and the Nuba Mountains (the northern sector is doing well). In these conventions, the SPLM candidates for the rural councils, payams administrators, and any other position at that level would be elected among the registered SPLM members in each payam so that they would have an opportunity to campaign for themselves with the help of the party members.
2.) Do the same thing at the county level so that the SPLM candidates for counties commissionerships would be prepared for the coming elections.
3.) Do the same thing also at the state levels. It makes no sense at all to have many SPLM candidates running for governorship in one state; instead, all the would be SPLM candidates for governorships should contest the candidacy of the SPLM in the convention where SPLM members in a given state would elect one among themselves so that when elections come, only one SPLM candidate, who will have been elected in that convention, should run for the post.
4.) Also the would be MPs of the SPLM for each constituency, whether for Southern Sudan Assembly or the National Assembly, should undergo the same procedures as the ones above
5.) Finally, call an SPLM national convention to evaluate the SPLM candidates for both the presidency of the south and the national presidency. In addition, the would-be candidates for those positions should start campaigning now. Specially, the SPLM candidate for the national presidency should make himself, by now, the mouthpiece of the marginalized people of the Sudan, has to be seen as the solver of the Darfur problems, has to appeal to the Sudanese by adopting a national approach to many issues, and many, many other things that would help the SPLM win the highest post in the country.
6.) SPLM media wise is completely paralyzed. I do not comprehend why a preeminent political party like the SPLM would neglect the media. Iím needless to say anything here for its importance to SPLM speaks volume.
Truly, Sudan will never be the same again as late Dr. John correctly predicted. We are going through a rapid dynamism that may give birth to a completely different Sudan than our Sudan of today.