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Stage Set for an Escalation of Violence Following 95 Percent Victory in Sudan Elections

The 71-year-old head of state who has been in power since 1989 won re-election with nearly 95 percent of the vote amid low voter turnout and an opposition boycott.

by Kayla Ruble
Apr 27 2015, 8:25pm

Photo by Reuters

President Omar al Bashir won his bid for reelection as Sudan's head of state on Monday, claiming a landslide victory with an overwhelming majority of the vote. Following the vote held between April 13 and 16, the 71-year-old head of state, who has been in power since 1989, won re-election with 94.5 percent of the vote, according to an announcement from Sudan's election committee on Monday.

Despite having faced genocide charges from the International Criminal Court (ICC), Bashir landed more than 5.2 million votes, with very few obstacles in his path to victory. The second place candidate, Fadl el-Sayed Shuiab of the Federal Truth Party, trailed behind by more than 90 percentage points, with just 1.43 percent of the vote.

In recent weeks, Western leaders have slammed the election process in Sudan for not being free and fair. In early April, before the polls opened, the European Union criticized the lack of a "conducive environment" for the elections, saying a "credible result with legitimacy throughout the country" could not be produced, due to the lack of open dialogue between all parties and stakeholders.

On April 20, the US, UK, and Norway released a statement saying that "the outcome of these elections cannot be considered a credible expression of the will of the Sudanese people." The countries scolded Sudan for failing "to create a free, fair, and conducive elections environment."

While the votes tipped highly in Bashir's favor, the election saw a notably low turnout — even after the country extended the polling by a day to boost participation. Sudan's opposition parties boycotted the vote, while in general, less than 46 percent of the population made it to the polls. This is an historic low, especially in the face of a regime that in the past has used pressuring methods to get people to vote.

Ryan D'Souza, an advocacy officer at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, told VICE News that while the voter turnout rate still beats out local elections in the UK, for example, it was lower than we've seen in past elections.

"To say the least [the government] has mechanisms to make sure people actually go out and vote," D'Souza said, explaining the general apathy towards wanting to vote, even within Bashir's own party.

According to D'Souza, the ruling party is likely to go ahead as usual after the win, further constricting the space for dialogue about conflicts within the country, particularly Darfur, as well as in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

"The [opposition] boycott is very much welcome, it shows there's a complete lack of trust in how the government is taking the country forward, burt right now the risk, for us, is further violence," he explained. "This is a government — what they're doing in Darfur where they have perpetrated and continue to commit widespread and systematic mass atrocities against their own people as well as in the ongoing conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. This is a regime that's not really going to listen to the democratic calls of the people."

Today, the Sudanese government accused South Sudan, which broke away through an independence referendum in 2011 after years of civil war, of supporting a rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict since it began in 2003. The government said the group was basing itself out of the Bahr al-Ghazal region in order to gain entrance into Darfur. The regime also laid blame on troops with the UN and African Union (AU) joint-mission for shooting and killing seven people in Darfur on Thursday. This counters the mission's account that its forces had kept dozens of gunmen at bay during an attack.

With the validation of the elections, D'Souza said it doesn't appear as if the regime will seek military solutions instead of pursuing political options. He also highlighted that Bashir is likely to further cling to power, especially considering the ICC charges against him, which constrict his travel possibilities.

The AU has refused to assist in sending the leader to the international court, citing presidential immunity. The court suspended the case in December 2014 in order to "shift resources to other urgent cases," while also citing alleged failures by the United Nations to push for Bashir's arrest.

D'Souza also cited the UN Security Council, saying the body needs to do more in pushing the government to comply with the host of UN resolutions related to Sudan and to stem the violence in the country.

"It's really the Security Council needs to be doing more to resolve this," he said. "There's a joint mission between UN and African Union in Darfur and I think both organizations have to play a stronger role in actually condemning crimes committed and ensure accountability for any atrocities committed by all parties in Sudan."

"The Security Council must uphold its own responsibility to protect populations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile by ensuring that civilians are not deprived of humanitarian assistance and no longer have to endure the daily barrel bombs," he added. 

Follow Kayla Ruble on Twitter: @RubleKB