SUDAN’S PARTIES CONCEDE DEFEAT, ALLEGE MASSIVE FRAUD
TWO political parties in Sudan's underdeveloped east have accused the president's National Congress Party (NCP), party of using fraud and intimidation to secure sweeping election victories across their region.
Between April 11-15, Sudanese went to the polls to choose their president, legislative and local representatives in the country's first multi-party elections in more than two decades.
Much of the opposition boycotted the proceedings before voting started citing irregularities, and observers have already said the elections did not meet international standards.
Officials are still counting votes in many areas, but the few results they have announced appear to show a strong win for the NCP, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
East Sudan's Beja Congress party, which is formally allied with the NCP, told Reuters it had only managed to win one seat in a local assembly in Red Sea state, but none in the national parliament.
The East is crucial to Sudan's oil-driven economy as it contains the only commercial port and miles of pipeline.
“We caught them (the NCP) emptying ballot boxes and they expelled our monitors from the voting centres during voting and counting,” Abdullah Moussa, a senior Beja Congress official in Port Sudan, told Reuters.
“We won this one (state assembly seat) only because it is a small area – one family and the young boys managed to guard many voting centres with small weapons at night,” he said.
According to official results from another Red Sea state constituency, the NCP candidate won almost 18,000 votes compared to just 839 for the eastern party.
The NCP has repeatedly denied taking part in any irregularities.
The Beja Congress signed a peace deal with Khartoum in 2006, ending a lingering insurgency in the east and its leader became a presidential assistant. But it has complained the government has continued to neglect the region since the accord.
The Beja, made famous by author Rudyard Kipling as the “Fuzzy Wuzzies” because of their distinctive hairstyles, are one of the largest tribes in the region.
Taher Ali, a candidate from the Democratic Congress for East Sudan, said he had traveled to Khartoum to complain about numerous irregularities.
“In one voting center, the box with my votes had 600 ballot papers less than the other boxes and of those 485 were spoiled … only 17 of the NCP's were spoiled,” said Ali who was beaten to a seat in the national assembly by the NCP's current interior minister.”
“Our people are furious – they want to go out onto the streets,” he said. “We are trying to calm them.”
Al-Bashir is the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur and had hoped a victory would legitimize his government in defiance of the arrest warrant. He denies the charges.
The National Elections Commission had delayed announcing the results, citing technical problems, but said it was back on track and hoped to have the final presidential results by the end of the week.
The United States said on Monday Sudan's elections were neither free nor fair but it would deal with the victors to try to settle internal disputes before a 2011 referendum that could bring independence to southern Sudan.
Al-Bashir's ruling party yesterday rejected U.S. accusations that last week's landmark polls in Sudan were not free and fair, but it welcomed an offer for cooperation.
“One of the most important criteria to meet the international standards is 'free and fair,' and we have met this criteria,” Ibrahim Ghandoor, a senior official of the NCP, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
On Monday, though, the U.S. State Department said the elections were not free and fair, after international observers said the polls had failed to reach international standards.
“This was not a free and fair election. It did not, broadly speaking, meet international standards,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington.
“That said, I think we recognise that the election is a very important step in terms of implementation of the CPA,” the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a decades-long civil war between north and south Sudan, Crowley said.
Washington “will continue to work with the government in the north, the government in the south, as we move forward with full implementation of the CPA and the vitally important referenda (on southern indepenence) that'll happen in January of next year.”
The NCP welcomed the offer.
“We welcome the cooperation with the U.S. government for the implementation of the CPA and for the sake of bilateral relations,” Ghandoor said.
Sudan's close ally China hailed the process for being peaceful.
“We were happy to see that the election took place in an orderly and stable fashion,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.
She said China – whose leaders are not popularly elected – had sent independent observers for the vote in Sudan, which exports oil to China.
“I am sure that this election, which suffered no problems, will benefit the reconciliation between the North and the South and the realisation of peace and stability in Sudan and in the region,” Jiang said.
Through the election, Al-Bashir sought to restore his stature after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant against him in March 2009, for alleged crimes committed in the western region of Darfur.
A close aide to Al-Bashir said last week that his re-election would prove accusations against him were “false.”