Political parties in the fray

A brief look at the political parties that registered to contest the 2010 elections.

Sudan election

The current elections in Sudan has been marred by complaints of irregularities [Reuters] 
Political parties in Sudan

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

Umma National Party (UNP)

Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)

Sudanese Communist Party (SCP)

Sudan National Alliance – Forces (SAF)

Umma Reformation and Renewal (URRP)

Popular Congress Party (PCP)

National Congress Party (NCP)

Sudanese Socialist Democratic Union

Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change

New National Democratic

Independent candidates

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

Hatim al-Sir Ali Sikinju – presidential candidate

The DUP is the oldest political party in Sudan and is considered the main opposition to the ruling party.

Ismail al-Azhari, the first president of Sudan, was a member of the party when it was known as the National Unionist Party. In 1967 Al-Azhari changed the name of the party in the presence of the current leader Mohamed Osman al-Merghani and the late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.

Merghani is also the head of the Khatmiya Sufi order and is claimed to be a descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

The DUP is the only Sudanese party to have governed the country through democratic elections, after winning 58 seats in 1953. It is also seen as the only major Sudanese party that has not participated in a coup in Sudan since its independence.

In the 1984 elections, the party won the largest number of votes and came second in the number of seats won in parliament.

The party has long-standing relations with the SPLM with whom it signed the Peace Deal of November 1988 in Ethiopia.

The last legislative elections, December 2000, were boycotted by the party and most other political groups due to claims that it was unfair and rigged.

Through the NDA it played a major role in the opposition to the NIF regime in Sudan during 1989-2005 until the signing of the CPA between the NDA and the government of Sudan.

The party’s position has shifted towards a more mediatory role, attempting to re-align the old and new opposition parties in a comprehensive stance to tackle the broader Sudanese issues such as unity, elections and transition into democracy – avoiding polarisation which it views as damaging to the long term interests of the country.

It continues to view the NDA as a long term alliance that could rightly guide the political movement in Sudan.

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Umma National Party (UNP)

Sadeq Abdel Rahman al-Mahdi – presidential candidate

The UNP, an Islamic centrist political party, is one of the oldest parties in Sudan with origins dating back to the late 19th century. Its leader Sadeq Abdel Rahman al-Mahdi is the last democratically elected prime minister of Sudan.

It was founded in 1945, by the leader of the Mahdist Sufi order of the Ansar, a religious group in Sudan, and descendant of Mohamed Ahmed al-Mahdi, who led the uprising against the Ottomans.

UNP’s main objective was the promotion of Sudanese independence against those who favoured unity with Egypt. In the first elections of 1953 it won the second largest number of seats, mainly in Darfur and Kordofan.

In the elections of 1986, the UNP evolved as one of the two major parties, and won the largest number of seats. It formed a coalition with the DUP, in which Sadeq became prime minister for the second time.

In the same year Umma held peace talks with the rebel SPLM which resulted in the Koka Dam Declaration.

However, the initiative failed because of political wrangling in Khartoum. In 1989 Sadeq was overthrown in a military takeover and imprisoned until 1991.

During this period the UNP leadership played a central role in forming the NDA.

In 1994 UNP signed the Chukudum Accord with the SPLM recognising the right of the South to determine its future in a referendum. Five years later Umma left the NDA and Sadeq returned to Sudan from exile and has since been one of the most vociferous critics of the government.

After the signing of the CPA, Umma welcomed the end of the war but criticised the exclusion of the other parties in the process. It refused to take part in the subsequent power-sharing deal and as a result is neither represented in the parliament nor in the government.

The party focuses on a solution to the Darfur crisis, which is one of its traditional strongholds. In 2008 Umma joined the government’s “People of Sudan Initiative” to resolve the conflict but later withdrew claiming that its proposals were not included.

While the UNP’s principles are “an Islam that is based on rationality, humanism, science, plurality”, they call for “respect of all faiths”.

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Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)

Yasir Saeed Arman – presidential candidate

The SPLM is a predominantly Christian Sudanese rebel movement turned political party. Based in southern Sudan, SPLM fought in the Second Sudanese Civil War against the Sudanese government from 1983 to 2005.

It was formed in 1983 when John Garang was sent to quell a mutiny of Southern troops in Bor, but instead set himself at the head of the rebellion.

Both the Koka Dam Declaration of 1986 with the Umma party and the Sudan Peace Initiative of 1988 with the DUP failed because of political wrangling.

By the time the “National Salvation Revolution” of 1989 took over power in Khartoum the SPLM controlled the largest part of South Sudan.

In 1989, it joined the NDA and signed the CPA with the Sudanese government, ending two-decades of civil war. SPLM has since had representatives in the government of Sudan, as well as being the main constituent of the government of the semi-autonomous southern Sudan.

The party was led by Garang until his death in a helicopter crash on 30 July 2005, shortly after his inauguration as vice president of Sudan and as president of the autonomous South. It is now led by Salva Kiir Mayardit who is also the president of southern Sudan and vice president of Sudan.

Defining itself as a national movement that is not confined to the South, the SPLM attracts support from northern Sudan as well, particularly the Nuba Mountains.

Having parted from its former Marxist orientation, the SPLM has been promoting its Fifteen-Point Programme, “a mixed free market economy in which both public and private sectors shall complement each other and be encouraged.”

In its “Vision & Programme” the SPLM pleads for “a united Sudan but united on a new basis; a new Sudanese political dispensation that is based on the realities of the Sudan, on both our historical and contemporary diversities.”

SPLM leaders have made clear that unity must be made attractive by the North until the referendum of 2011. President Kiir stated during the party’s Second National Convention in 2008: “The decision on voluntary unity ultimately rests with the people of Southern Sudan who are, and should remain, masters of their own destiny.”

Yasir Saeed Arman, the SPLM presidential candidate, withdrew from the presidential poll in protest against electoral irregularities and insecurity in Sudan’s western Darfur region. He was seen as Bashir’s main contender.

The SPLM and other opposition groups have demanded an investigation into how a government company won a tender to print voting papers and have made numerous complaints of fraud during voter registration and other preparations.

The former rebel movement leader, who had been contesting the election in South Sudan, said the poll is being held to legitimise Bashir’s rule, in defiance of an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest for war crimes in Darfur.

Analysts said Arman’s withdrawal effectively handed the presidential race to Bashir and could be part of a deal with Bashir’s northern National Congress Party to guarantee a January 2011 referendum on independence in the south, also promised under a 2005 peace deal.

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Sudanese Communist Party (SCP)

Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud Munawar – presidential candidate

Founded in 1946, ten years before Sudan’s independence, the SCP took five seats in the 1952 elections and was at the time considered to be one of the most influential Communist parties in both the Middle East and Africa.

When the first democratic regime was overthrown by the military in 1958, the SCP opposed the incoming government and was forced underground where it continued its opposition activities through civil disobedience.

In 1969 the SCP supported Jafaar Nimeri but the party remained officially dissolved although some CPS members entered Nimeri’s government. In 1971 Nimeri accused the SCP of complicity in an abortive coup led by SCP member Hashim El Atta Mahjoub, and due to this a wave of repression forced the party to go underground.

After the military takeover of 1989 the CPS joined the NDA and continued its activities from inside the country, clandestinely publishing its own weekly newspaper.

CPS secretary general Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, who has held the office since 1972, stayed inside Sudan in hiding from 1994 until 2006.

“We are still committed to our Marxist orientation. We think Marx’s analysis of capitalism in the 19th century was useful and we use his methods as a tool to examine the current situation. We are advocating socialism in a multi-party system,” he recently said.

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Sudan National Alliance – Forces (SAF)

Abdel Aziz Khalid  – presidential candidate

SAF was formed in August 1994 as a democratic, secular, non-regional party, by several of the leaders who were involved in the 1985 general uprising that toppled Numeri. It is the second largest military organisation, after the SPLM and Abdel Aziz Khalid, head of the party, is running as its presidential candidate.

SAF was one of the original four members (with DUP, Umma Party and SPLM) to form the NDA.

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Umma Reformation and Renewal (URRP)

Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi – presidential candidate

The URRP is a split off from the Umma Party and was founded in 2002 under the leadership of Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, a nephew of Umma chairman Sadeq Abdel Rahman al-Mahdi and descendant of al-Mahdi.

Fadil al-Mahdi served in various ministerial positions during the democratic period of 1986-1989. After the military takeover of 1989 he went into exile in London. He was also instrumental in creating the NDA and became its secretary general. In 1994 he signed the Chukudum agreement that integrated the SPLM into the NDA.

When the Umma Party left the NDA in 1999, Fadil al-Mahdi returned to Khartoum. Three years later he and his supporters formed the URRP and joined the government.

Fadil al-Mahdi became assistant president and a number of his fellow URRP activists were appointed to government positions.

However, in 2004 Fadil al-Mahdi was ousted because of his criticism of the government’s policy in the Darfur and Eastern Sudan. In 2007 Fadil al-Mahdi, his secretary general Abdel Jalil Basha and other URRP politicians were imprisoned on allegations of a planned coup.

In line with its traditional good relations with the SPLM, Fadil al-Mahdi and the URRP gave “unequivocal support” to the CPA that settled the war in the South. The party promotes a restructuring of the North into five regions in order to establish a more decentralized system of federalism.

With respect to the question of unity he has said: “I believe our destiny is to remain together – even if we split in 2011, we will still come together.”

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Popular Congress Party (PCP)

Abdalla Deng Nhial Ayom – presidential candidate

The PCP, led by Hassan al-Turabi, split off in 2001 from the ruling National Congress. Turabi, who holds a PhD in law from the Sorbonne in Paris, joined Sudan’s Muslim Brothers Organisation in the 1960s, which was founded in 1952 by students of the University of Khartoum as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood Organisation of Egypt led by Hassan Al Banna.

Turabi led the brotherhood’s party, the Islamic Charter Front (ICF), to a prominent role during the overthrow of the Abboud military regime in 1964. In the elections of 1965 and 1968 it won a number of seats, but after the 1969 “socialist” revolution of Jafar Nimeri the ICF was banned and persecuted like all other parties.

Following Nimeri’s policy of “national reconciliation” in 1977 the activists of the dissolved ICF re-entered the political stage with Turabi taking over the influential position of attorney general. However, shortly before the 1985 ousting of Nimeri, Turabi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were imprisoned.

In the elections of 1986 the National Islamic Front (NIF), successor to the ICF, won the third largest number of seats. In 1988 Turabi served first as minister of justice and then as minister of foreign affairs as well as deputy prime minister in a coalition government with the Umma party. However, in early 1989 the NIF was ousted from the coalition under pressure from the army.

After the military takeover of June 1989 Turabi and fellow leaders were imprisoned again, but he soon joined Bashir’s National Salvation Revolution (Ingaz) and played a crucial role in designing the new government’s Islamic policies.

In 1996 Turabi was elected Speaker of the National Assembly and in 1998 secretary-general of the NCP, which evolved out of the NIF. However, in 1999 he was ousted from these positions over differences with the government.

Since forming the PCP in 2001, he and party leaders were repeatedly arrested and placed under house arrest, yet they remained one of the most vociferous opponents of the ruling NCP.

In 2001 senior PCP representatives signed a memorandum of understanding with the rebel SPLM. When NCP and SPLM signed the CPA, the PCP refused to participate in the power sharing deal, claiming that 14% of the parliamentary seats allocated to opposition parties were unfair.

The PCP describes itself as “a broad national democratic party” which is not based upon regionalism or sectarianism and moreover as “a social organisation”. It states that it is “guided by the unitarian doctrine of devotion to God”.

At the same time it emphasizes the democratic and pluralist dimensions of its renewalist-fundamentalist Islamic vision.

“It is inappropriate for the purpose of religion or the authority of believers to restrain the freedoms of the people, while God has created them free, even as to their choice of belief in Him,” the PCP General Programme declared.

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National Congress Party (NCP)

Omar al-Bashir – presidential candidate

The NCP is the governing official political party of Sudan. It is headed by Omar al-Bashir, who has been president of Sudan since he seized power in a military coup on 30 June 1989, and began institutionalizing Sharia law at a national level.

The NCP was formally founded in 1998 and since then has been led by Bashir. Its roots go back to the Muslim Brotherhood that was founded in the 1940s, the ICF which was formed in the 1960s and its successor party, the NIF.

Bashir came to power in 1989 through a military takeover, called the National Salvation Revolution (Ingaz), which opposed the traditional sectarianism in Sudanese politics.

While harshly criticized by the opposition, the NCP has been widely credited for settling the war in the South through the CPA and also for major achievements in the economy and infrastructure of the country.

The NCP has declared the ‘Shura’, the consultation between the leadership and the popular base at the grass roots level, its main political principle.

According to its Secretariat for Culture the NCP “aims to promote faith in the Sudan as the ultimate goal of achieving cultural renaissance and development”.

While the NCP’s “Civilizational Project” stresses that Islam “is always the source of the Sudanese culture” promoting the motto of “Return to Islam”, it emphasizes “full respect” for non-Muslims.

Since the outbreak of the Darfur conflict in 2004 between the government of Bashir and rebel groups, the NCP has been widely criticised for allegedly, however not officially, supporting Arab militias such as the Janjaweed through a campaign of murder, rape and deportation against the local population.

Because of the guerrilla warfare in the Darfur region, between 200,000 and 400,000 people have been killed, while over 2.5 million people have been displaced and diplomatic relations between Sudan and Chad have fell apart.

In 2008 the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced ten criminal charges against Bashir and a warrant for his arrest has been issued, but not yet executed.

Despite his international arrest warrant, Bashir remains the leader of the NCP and its primary candidate in the upcoming presidential election, the first democratic election with multiple political parties participating in ten years.

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Sudanese Socialist Democratic Union

Fatima Abdel Mahmoud – presidential candidate

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Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change

Lam Akol – presidential candidate

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New National Democratic

Muneer Sheikh Eldin Jalab – presidential candidate

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Independent candidates

Two independent candidates:

– Al-Tayib Idriss

– Ahmed Goha

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Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)

The CPA was a set of agreements, culminating in January 2005, which were signed between the opposition and the Sudanese government. Amongst other developments, it notably ended the generation-long, North-South conflict and established a national unity government. It also set a timetable by which southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence.

In 2007, the SPLM suspended it’s participation in the national unity government because it claimed the NCP was not implementing key aspects of the CPA. Months of high-level meetings and negotiations saw the parties agree on a series of measures which saw the SPLM rejoin the government.

Northern Sudanese troops officially left southern Sudan on 8 January 2008.

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National Democratic Alliance (NDA)

The NDA is a group of 13 political parties that formed in 1989 to oppose the rule of Omar al-Bashir after he seized power in a military coup on June 6, 1989. The NDA signed a deal with the Sudanese government on June 18, 2005, following the signing of the CPA.

After further violent clashes in the east, a separate peace deal was signed with the Beja Congress in October 2006.

The Leadership Council of the NDA includes the following organizations:

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

Umma National Party (UNP)

Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)

Sudanese Communist Party (SCP)

Sudan National Alliance – Forces (SAF)

The Union of Sudan African Parties (USAP).

The General Council of the Trade Unions Federations.

The Legitimate Command of the Sudanese Armed Forces.

The Beja Congress.

The Federal Democratic Alliance.

The Rashaida Free Lions.

The Arab Baath Socialist Party.

Independent National Figures.

Representatives of the Liberated Areas.

Sudanese National Party.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies