Sudan parties mull alliance in looming elections

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More than 20 Sudanese parties including the main force in the south may field joint candidates in next year’s elections, officials said, in what would be a major challenge to the country’s president.

The oil-producing state is due to hold its first multi-party poll in 24 years next April, and opposition groups have already accused the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of widespread fraud in the run up to the vote, a charge it denies.
"(We are considering) joint candidates that sincerely believe in the democratic transformation … Joint candidates or agreeing to support one candidate from one party," Waleed Hamid, a senior official from south Sudan’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), told Reuters yesterday.

The move was dismissed by the NCP, led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court over war crimes charges in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Any alliance would transform the political landscape in Sudan where the NCP, which came to power in a coup in 1989, currently controls more than half of the seats in parliament.

The parliamentary share was agreed in a 2005 peace deal that ended more than two decades of north-south civil war and set up a national coalition government between the NCP and the SPLM, which fought as southern rebels in the civil war.

The new discussions come after months of worsening relations between the coalition partners. Analysts have warned there is a risk of renewed conflict over unresolved flashpoints, including the position of the north-south border and preparations for a referendum on southern independence in 2011.

The SPLM released a joint statement with opposition groups in September threatening to boycott the elections if the NCP did not pass a raft of democratic reforms.

Senior NCP official Ibrahim Ghandour yesterday accused the parties of sending confusing signals to voters, threatening first to boycott elections then share candidates.
"We believe that parties with different political agenda, from the Muslim sharia agenda to the secular agenda, will not come together. If they come together it will be a disaster for the country," he told Reuters.

Opposition groups taking part in recent discussions with the SPLM include Sudan’s Communists, which confirmed the alliance discussions, and the Islamist Popular Congress Party.
"We believe that an alliance in an election which is based solely on defeating another party is antidemocratic but we are ready for the contest," said Ghandour.

Sudan’s opposition Umma party told Reuters leaders from the different parties could reach a decision later this month on whether to share candidates in the presidential, legislative and local government polls.
"We all have a national agenda but the NCP is refusing to participate with people. It is refusing to give in over Darfur. It is in a regional war with Chad," said Umma spokesperson Mariam Sadeq al-Mahdi.
"We believe an alliance could lead Sudan to success and end this story of failure."



She added leaders would also decide on a deadline for their boycott threat and hold a joint rally at Sudan’s parliament.