Sudanís Opposition Umma Party Urges 4-Week Vote Delay (Update3)
April 02, 2010, 3:00 PM EDT
By Maram Mazen
April 2 (Bloomberg) -- Former Sudanese Prime Minister Sadig al-Mahdiís Umma Party called for a four-week postponement of the first multiparty vote in 24 years and demanded that the government take measures to make the elections ďcredible.Ē
The Umma Party issued eight demands that include a freeze on ďoppressive security lawsĒ and putting state media under a neutral authority, and will withdraw from the April 11-13 vote if they arenít met, Sarah Nugdallah, head of the partyís political bureau, told reporters today in Khartoum.
ďIf these demands are not agreed on by Tuesday, April 6, then the Umma Party will boycott the rest of the elections and announce it will not recognize its results,Ē she said. In the meantime, ďUmma Party will resume its election campaign on all levels.Ē
Umma and Sudanís other main opposition parties said yesterday they would boycott the elections. Umma leaders made the decision hours after they met with the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Scott Gration, who, Nugdallah said, asked them to participate in the elections. Umma leader al-Mahdi was Sudanís last leader elected in a multiparty vote.
Gration said he would try to convince government officials to agree to the election delay, Nugdallah said. ďHe said he will try to achieve this delay,Ē she said.
ďIt seems very clear that he is very aware of the gravity of the situation,Ē the Brussels-based International Crisis Groupís special adviser on Sudan, Fouad Hikmat, said of Gration. ďIf the elections are boycotted, Sudan will fall into the abyss.Ē
The vote for the presidency, parliament and state governorships will take place five years after a peace agreement ended a two-decade long war that killed as many as 2 million people between the Muslim north and the south, where Christianity and traditional religion dominate.
The opposition parties have accused the National Elections Commission of being biased in favor of President Umar al- Bashirís National Congress Party. They also say the NCP has monopolized the media, intimidated opponents, used state resources for its campaign, and manipulated a census.
ďThe demands can be met, but it all depends on a political decision from the state,Ē Hikmat said in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since coming to power in a military coup in 1989, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges he was responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which came in second after the Umma Party in the 1986 elections, said itís not part of the full election boycott announced yesterday by the so-called National Consensus Forces, a coalition of opposition parties.
While the party has withdrawn its presidential candidate Hatem El-Sirr, it will keep participating in parliament and regional elections, Salah el-Basha, the DUPís Secretary of Information, told reporters in Khartoum.
ďOur party will participate in the coming elections, except the presidency which we already announced that we have withdrawn from,Ē el-Basha said.
The Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement, which governs the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan, announced on March 31 it was withdrawing its presidential candidate from the vote and boycotting the polls in the western region of Darfur. It will contest the election in the rest of the country.
Southern Sudan is scheduled to vote in a referendum in January to decide whether to secede from the rest of Sudan.
Sudan produces 480,000 barrels of oil per day and ranks as sub-Saharan Africaís third-biggest crude producer, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Most of that is pumped in the south.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Sylvia Wier
To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum via Cairo at [email protected].