On Sunday morning, April 11, Sudanese began arriving at the polls to vote in their country’s first multi-party elections in 24 years. In the days leading up to the election, however, the number of candidates vying for office became considerably more limited.
Less than two weeks before the elections, on March 31, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) withdrew its candidate for Sudanese presidency, Yasir Arman, and, a week later, all of its candidates in 13 out of the 15 northern state elections. The SPLM cited election irregularities and the conflict in Darfur, which prevented anything approximating a free and fair election there. The SPLM stated its intention to participate only in parliamentary and local elections in the disputed Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states. The decision to drop out of the presidential race marked a decisive and poignant end to the South’s erstwhile dream of fighting for a reformed and united Sudan — the vision that SPLA leader John Garang carried to his death.
The day after SPLM’s decision to withdraw Mr. Arman, leading opposition parties in the north, including the popular Umma party, announced a full boycott of the elections.
Although Bashir seeks the legitimacy that befalls an elected leader, his likely victory has now been tainted by the boycott and continued reports of election irregularities. The logistics of the election have been exceedingly complicated. In order to participate in all national, parliamentary, and local elections, voters in the north have to vote eight times over the next few days and those in the south 12 times. On the second day of voting, the election commission announced that polls would be extended by two days to accommodate delays in delivering ballots papers to all 17,000 centers around the country.