The Illusion of Democracy in Sudan:
How Elections are Manipulated to Legitimize a Dictator
As Bashir and his party are preparing for their inevitable reelection. The Sudanese Communist Party recently announced that they would be boycotting the upcoming 2020 election. This announcement comes after that of other members of the National Consensus Forces (NCF), the collation of opposition parties to the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). The NCF also stated their refusal to meet with the ruling party and discuss plans for this election.
The outcome of the 2020 election is already known and is unlikely to change. The Sudanese constitution allows for the formation of multiple different political parties, but their impact on Sudanese elections is minimal at best. The formation of these political parties is to give the illusion of democracy in Sudan and so are Sudanese elections.
The most recent Sudanese election in 2015, saw President al-Bashir win with a whopping 94% of the total vote, and the five-year extension of a then 26-year-old rule. It is important to note a few things from the 2015 election. Firstly, there was a mass boycott by opposing parties. The NCF and the Sudanese Communist Party, as well as many others, refused to take part in this election due to the perceived corruption of the election system. Elections in Sudan are by no means free and fair, but a boycott of these elections can have unintended consequences, such as easing the manipulation of the election, targeting of those who refused to vote and the bias of monitoring committees.
Secondly, this election was monitored but by missions sent by the African Union, the Arab League, as well as some sent from China, Russia, and Turkey, countries which all face criticism of their own election processes. But the Russia-Sudan relation is of particular interest as it has warmed significantly in recent years. President al-Bashir invited President Putin to Khartoum earlier this year, and President Putin accepted. Russia is one of Sudan’s strongest investment partners and has actively opposed the creation of an independent Darfurian state. Not only that, but some of the weapons employed by the Janjaweed have been bought from Russia. Many recent attacks have been conducted with the use of DShK(Dushka) machine guns. This relation has depended so much that at the end of 2017, President al-Bashir appealed to Putin for his help against US interference.
Nonetheless, these committees reported that the reason President al-Bashir won with such a large percentage of the total vote was that there was no formal opposition, as well as low voter turnout. These are valid reasons, not many people voted, and many parties boycotted the election. However, it’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy as the reason people did not vote and parties boycotted the election was because the outcome was already known. Sudanese elections have always been marred by corruption and inequality, and there has always been a general public consensus that these elections are useless. The public apathy towards elections has contributed to lower voter turnout and is part of a cycle of control. Because people know that their votes do not matter, they do not vote. In addition, the prevalent corruption and rigging of elections also discourage other political parties from running. Election monitoring committees can blame such a large majority vote on these surface level factors, rather than the lack of true democracy.
The 2010 elections only serve to further show the mass scale at which voting rights are denied. A video surfaced from the time showing men, dressed in the Sudanese Armed Forces uniform, stuffing ballot boxes. However, this video has yet to be authenticated. The Sudanese National Elections Committee claimed that this video is fake, but they refused to investigate it despite the cries from civil society. The video has since been deleted. More so, photos of polling sites from the 2015 election show staffers sleeping, as well as mainly police officers voting. Parts of Darfur and South Kordofan excluded from voting in 2015. Officials said that they wanted to protect citizens because of the ongoing conflict. Yet, it is the government using the threats of their ongoing genocide to disenfranchise the regions which they are actively pursuing a genocidal policy against. But the only reason why voting in these areas is a potential safety threat is that the Sudanese Government is actively attacking these regions.
The NCP is dangerous. The NCP was founded out of the National Islamic Front in the late 1990s. The ideologies of these two are not different. The establishment of the NCP was more of a name change than anything else. The NCP based their policies off Pan-Arabism, Anti-Zionism, and Salafism, a radical form of Sunni Islam. Under the rule of President al-Bashir and the NCP, Sudan’s human rights record has deteriorated.
President al-Bashir’s rule has been disastrous. There are the deteriorating human rights conditions, the collapse of banking systems, and the economic collapse of various different sectors including the agricultural, industrial and medical sectors. Worst of all, the situation in Darfur leaving countless dead and displaced. President al-Bashir’s rule saw the succession of South Sudan after a brutal and sustained civil war. President al-Bashir was also the first sitting president to be indicted on counts of genocide and is still actively carrying out a genocide in Darfur as dictated by the NCP ideology. His goal is to drive the native, non-Arab population out of Darfur and resettle the region with a new Arab policy. It is Sudan’s “Final Solution”.
For the last 15 years, the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, under the direction of President al-Bashir have burned villages, slaughtered innocent civilians, and utilized rape as a weapon of war. In recent years, Amnesty International has brought forth allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Darfur against civilian populations, but these claims have yet to be investigated by the UN. Amnesty International has also brought forth allegations that Sudan is employing what is known as a “Scorched Earth Policy”. This policy in short means that the government is trying to further deprive civilians in Darfur, especially those in the Jebel Marra region, of anything that might be of use to them. It is another way for the Sudanese Government to try and drive people out of their homes. They are doing so by dropping bombs on the region and restricting access to humanitarian aid; cutting Darfur off from the world while they continue to pillage it.
The general consensus that elections in Sudan area sham to give the illusion of democracy seems to hold. It is understandable why all these political parties are boycotting the upcoming election. Before the campaigns have officially started, everyone already knows who is going to win the 2020 election. The sad truth of it all is that in Sudan, the voter doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is how fast the NCP can stuff ballot boxes.
As long as there is an international cover-up of what really happens in Sudanese election, this cycle of control will continue. The stakes are too high for this system to continue. There is not needs to be genuine monitoring committees but a genocidaire should not be allowed to run for election in 2020. This is a small start to tackling a much greater problem. But only when there is formal international recognition of the corruption in these elections cycles can we move forward and work to break Bashir’s methods of control and work to transfer him to The Hague to stand trial for all those he murdered. Next year will mark three decades of Bashir’s rule. It will also mark ten years since the first ICC arrest warrant against time. We need to ensure that the only anniversary Bashir has in the coming years is that of his arrest.