Sudanese at an elections campaign rally, South Sudan

A few days ago, a key announcement was made by over ten Sudanese opposition parties calling on the postponement of the April 11 elections.

Some of the reasons they cite in their letter is the improper census and voter registration conducted last year, repressive laws that have seen opposition party members being arrested arbitrarily, Darfur problem where an estimated 60% of the population did not even register to vote, unfair media laws that give NCP undue advantage etc.

Truth be told, the challenges facing the National Elections Committee are gargantuan. It is understaffed and doesnt have the capacity to conduct credible elections (even by the very low African threshold of electoral standards!).

Is it any wonder that the opposition has led the way on calling for their postponement? And quite telling is the recent report by the Carter Center casting aspersions on the ability on any meaningful credible being conducted in April. The latter even went ahead to call for postponement.

Predictably, Bashir reacted angrily threatening to ‘cut their fingers, put them under our shoes and throw them (foregin monitors) out of Sudan’. Hmmm…

So now everywhere he turns, Bashir is being bombarded with calls to put off the polls to a later date. Even his newfound friend in Darfur, JEM is calling for postponement of the vote in the restive region.

Analysts are however skeptical about this, since it could inadvertently lead to pushing back of the South referendum slated for January 2011.

Salva Kiir, speaking at the IGAD summit in Nairobi in March says the dates for the referendum can not and will not be changed. Quoth he: “The Southern people value the referendum more than the elections” Meaning, they are well aware of the fact that NCP will rig elections and cling to power. So why not salvage something for themselves like their right to separate?

Already, the SPLM and NCP have agreed to pospone the vote in South Kordofan following disagreements over the census results.

These are very tricky times in deed! To vote or not to vote, that is the question.

Perhaps we should give more attention to “elite bargaining” as the next phase of resolving this conflict and stop expecting too much on the democratization process? Maybe we need to focus on stabilization first; even allow the South referendum to proceed before elections…