In his Wars, Guns and Votes, Paul Collier explains some fascinating yet disturbing findings on occurrences of electoral violence in the ‘bottom billion’ countries especially in Africa. The main thrust of his findings is that democracy is very dangerous in poor countries leading not to pluralism and popular participation, but to polarization and instability and even over conflict. This has been seen to happen in a relatively stable democracy like Kenya.

Now substitute Sudan for Kenya. Throw in some uniquely Sudan complexities like:

1. This is the first time since 1986 that Sudan is going into a multiparty election. The current leader came to power through a coup in 1989.
2. A key aspect of the elections, i.e. the Census results of 2008, are highly contended by the two main principles to the CPA, the SPLM and NCP. These results are very crucial in determining the representation formula and resource allocations at the national level and local levels.
3. There are nightmarish logistical challenges like delivering ballots to very remote areas in Africa’s biggest country, assisting illiterate electorate vote (like in the South where they will vote in 12 ballots!), counting and tallying of the votes, etc etc.
4. The referendum less than a year away for these elections. In addition, should the South vote for separation in the 2011 plebiscite, there are some electoral posts that will have to be scrapped and probably another election could be called in 2011.
5. Darfur: hundreds of thousands refused to register fort he elections since they are holed up in IDP camps and want to vote in their original homes. The Electoral Commission did not make any provision for voting in the IDP camps, thus they will not be allowed to vote. So, a large constituency will essentially be excluded in the most important elections in the country.

As Savo Heleta puts it, these elections may turn out to be a destabilizing factor in an already fragile political and security situation.

Maybe we should wait till after the referendum; or just hold executive elections (presidency and state governorships?)