Sudan: Observers Disagree on How to Frame the Election
According to African Union observers on the ground, the just-completed Sudan elections were not only a significant step in the right direction, but also relatively free and fair considering the troubled history of Sudanese politics. Although “it was not a perfect election,” Kunle Adeyemi, chief of the AU’s observer mission in Sudan, reported that “We have not found evidence of fraud… we saw a vote that was very transparent.”
This show of support, albeit carefully qualified, runs counter to a preliminary assessment provided by the Carter Center, whose monitors were dismayed that the “elections will fall short of meeting international standards and Sudan’s obligations for genuine elections.” But these deficiencies may be of temporary consequence should the regime adhere to the remaining components of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. “Sudan’s government must ensure that the democratic opening is expanded and deepened,” it said, referring to both creating space for civil society and following through on next year’s referendum. “Full respect for human rights, democratic principles, and transparency will help to heal the mistrust that has detracted from the electoral process.”
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley echoed the Carter Center’s concerns, telling reporters at his Monday briefing that “This was not a free and fair election. It did not, broadly speaking, meet international standards.” With regard to next year’s referendum, Crowley acknowledged the “value of having millions of people in Sudan exercise their right to vote,” but cautioned that there’s still much work to be done in order to meet the CPA’s “very aggressive and difficult timetable.”
Meanwhile, Sudan state media is reporting that President Omar al-Bashir “scored overwhelming victories” in a sampling of 35 polling places, winning anywhere between 70 – 92 percent of the presidential vote. Gregg Carlstrom links to a National Elections Commission report that puts al-Bashir at “roughly 90 percent.” And earlier today, these lopsided returns prompted two of Sudan’s eastern region opposition parties to concede defeat — though in doing so, they accused the regime of blatant electoral fraud.
UPDATE: The White House just released a statement on the elections as well, saying that despite limited political freedoms and reports of intimidation and voting irregularities, “The people of Sudan are to be commended for their efforts to make Sudan’s first multi-party elections in over two decades peaceful and meaningful.” Like both the Carter Center and Crowley at the State Department, the White House sees the election as an essential step toward fully realizing the vision laid out by the CPA.