Counting is currently underway in Sudan’s first multi-party elections in over 24 years. Though counting will not officially be over for some time, all signs point to sitting Pres. Omar al-Bashir as coming out on top.
Last week, election officials extended the voting period by an extra two days due to voter complaints of technical issues. These include ballots being sent to the wrong polling stations and registers missing voter names. The elections were held for the positions of president, members of parliament, and local offices. According to CNN, about 750 international and 18,000 domestic observers monitored the process.
The process, however, has come in to question. According to BBC, former U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter said, “It is obvious that the elections will fall short of international standards that are expected of advanced democracies … The people’s expectations have not been met.”
Carter was speaking not only of the irregularities at polling stations mentioned previously, but also of the fact that many of the opposition parties illegally pulled out of the election too close to the vote.
This includes the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the main party in the South that pulled out accusing the ruling National Congress Party of fraud.
Carter, however, did maintain that the elections were the right step toward establishing democracy.
This sentiment was echoed by Jen Ziemke, a professor of political science at John Carroll University. According to Ziemke, “Evidence shows that sham elections that are actually more window dressing or facade than anything else nevertheless sometimes help usher in openness and change in the political culture and climate of a community.”
The elections were held as a main part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between north and south Sudan – two million people were killed during this time.
Al-Bashir has ruled since he took over in a military coup in 1989. The International Criminal Court has charged him with committing genocide and crimes against humanity in the country’s western region of Darfur.
According to Reuters, al-Bashir wants a respectable victory so he can claim to have support of the Sudanese people on the heels of his indictment from the ICC.