Sudanese Opposition Parties Protest Election Commission ĎBiasí
March 04, 2010, 8:22 AM EST
March 4 (Bloomberg) -- Sudanís main opposition parties staged a rally today to protest what they called ďbiasĒ by the National Elections Commission in favor of the ruling party before the first multiparty elections in 24 years next month.
Almost 200 protesters gathered at the electoral bodyís offices in Sudanís capital, Khartoum, as opposition presidential candidates handed a copy of their demands for a free and fair vote to the commission. The parties also said President Umar al- Bashirís National Congress Party controls the state media and called for the press to be impartial.
ďWe have been observing many irregularities,Ē Yasser Arman, the presidential candidate of the Sudan Peopleís Liberation Movement, which governs the autonomous region of Southern Sudan, told reporters. ďThey have to be neutral. These elections are very sensitive elections.Ē
The elections for the presidency, parliament and state governorships will take place five years after a peace agreement ended a 20-year civil war between the mainly Christian and animist south and the Muslim north.
The elections commission issued a publication on Feb. 18 containing campaign regulations that said opposition parties must get permission from the authorities 72 hours ahead of planned public rallies. The advance approval is ďfor security reasons and organizing traffic,Ē it said.
The parties are also required to provide written notification, including ďthe time of the meeting, and its subject,Ē to the commission 72 hours before any public activities inside their offices, the panel said.
The opposition Umma party said on Feb. 28 that it would ignore the commissionís publication, ďand will treat it as if it doesnít exist,Ē according to party spokeswoman Mariam Al- Mahdi.
The ruling NCP today denied that it interfered in the commissionís work.
ďThe commission is the body responsible for regulating the elections process,Ē Rabee Abdel Ati, a senior NCP official and adviser to the minister of information, said by phone. ďThe NCP will abide by all measures provided by the commission.Ē
Bashir, who overthrew former Prime Minister Sadig Al-Mahdi of the Umma party in a 1989 military coup, is wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on charges of being responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the seven-year-old conflict in the western region of Darfur.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Heather Langan
To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum via Cairo at [email protected].
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at [email protected].