‘More of the same’: Bashir sweeps Sudan election

President Bashir wins 94 percent majority in a vote boycotted by opposition parties and criticised internationally.

sudan - president on the campaign trail
Bashir, who has ruled the country since coming to power in a military coup in 1989, won the vote with an overwhelming majority [EPA]

Analysts were predicting “business as usual” in Sudan after President Omar al-Bashir won the country’s election, garnering 94 percent of the vote.

Results for the 450 seats in the Sudanese National Assembly had not been released by the Sudanese National Election Commission as of midday Monday.

Bashir, who has ruled the country since coming to power in a military coup in 1989, will continue his rule, despite previously stating that he would not run for re-election.

“Participation has been respectable in these elections, 46 percent. Despite this, it will be business as usual for Sudan,” Sudanese academic and author AbdelWahab el-Affendi told Al Jazeera, noting opposition groups were right to boycott the election. “Following arrests and harassment, they had no other option.”

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Although the election was boycotted by the main opposition parties, including Sadiq al-Mahdi’s National Umma Party, Hassan al-Turabi’s Popular Congress Party and parts of the Democratic Unionist Party, “there has been a semblance of competition in these elections,” Affendi added. “[Going forward, if] Bashir can rebuild the economy, end regional violence and quell popular anger, he may be able to stay in power in the long term.”

This year’s vote, which was extended for a day due to low turnout, took place between April 13 and 16. It was the first election since South Sudan seceded in 2011.

Minni Minnawi, the leader of the Sudan Liberation Movement, has called on the international community to reject the results of the presidential and parliamentary elections, according to Sudanese media reports, and has encouraged the continuance of the “Irhal” or “Depart” non-engagement campaign, which has gained popular support in Sudan.

“In contrast to the first elections five years ago, these elections have had none of the same excitement or suspense,” Harry Verhoeven, a professor of African politics at Georgetown University, told Al Jazeera. “There is a feeling that very little is at stake. No one believes the re-election of Bashir will lead to any genuine political change.”

There is no room in the centre for dissension. Instead, real change will show itself in local politics and provincial councils.

by Magdi el-Gizouli, online blogger and fellow at the Rift Valley Institute

For the average Sudanese resident, he added, “it’s more of the same”.

“Bashir’s regime is largely out of ideas and has been since the painful separation with the South,” Verhoeven said. “In a situation sadly recognisable in other African countries, the Sudanese regime is in survival mode, too weak to set a forward-looking national agenda and with a very fragmented opposition.”

A statement issued on April 20 by the United States, the United Kingdom and Norway criticised “Sudan’s failure to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment”, concluding that “the outcome of these elections cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people”. This follows earlier criticism by the European Union.

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the statement “disappointing”, evidence of “anti-elections rhetoric”, and the “bias” of international bodies. The Sudanese government maintains the 2015 elections were “a triumph for the consolidation of democracy” in Sudan.

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Bashir campaigned on a number of issues, including turning around the heavily sanctioned and oil-reliant economy, improving relations with the international community and tackling high inflation and unemployment rates.

He also reaffirmed his pledge to hold genuine national dialogue talks inclusive of all political stakeholders, and to work towards a permanent constitution. Sudan has yet to adopt a constitution after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement’s six-year, interim period expired in 2011.

Magdi el-Gizouli, an online blogger and fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, told Al Jazeera the election results “are exactly as expected”.

“There is no room in the centre for dissension. Instead, real change will show itself in local politics and provincial councils,” Gizouli said. “Despite his age, stepping down is not an option for Bashir. It would mean surrendering power and the possibility of prosecution by the Hague.”

Sarah Nouwen, an international law expert at the University of Cambridge, added: “These elections may decide something, but do not resolve anything. Indeed, they have deepened the current political crises by intensifying mistrust: mistrust among political parties, mistrust among the country’s centre and its peripheries, and mistrust between political parties and their supposed constituencies.”

Bashir will also need to work towards resolving the country’s ongoing conflicts, particularly in Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states, which have resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths and displacement, according to Human Rights Watch.

Follow Adela Suliman on Twitter: @ASBintBattuta

Source: Al Jazeera