Su­dan be­gins vot­ing in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion; al-Bashir ex­pected to win

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MAGGIE MICHAEL

Su­dan be­gan vot­ing Mon­day in an elec­tion ex­pected to be won by Pres­i­dent Omar al- Bashir, the world’s only sit­ting leader wanted on geno­cide charges.

Vot­ers slowly be­gan ar­riv­ing to polling places in Su­dan’s cap­i­tal, Khar­toum. Op­po­si­tion par­ties, cit­ing a lack of free­dom of speech and as­sem­bly in the African coun­try, are boy­cotting the vote, which in­cludes elect­ing can­di­dates for the coun­try’s leg­isla­tive coun­cil.

Voter lists hung on walls at polling sta­tions. Some po­lice of­fi­cers and sol­diers lined up with civil­ians to vote.

Ahmed Sulie­man, a uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor, was one of a hand­ful of vot­ers at the polling place in St. Fran­cis School in down­town Khar­toum. He de­scribed vot­ing as the only way for a “peace­ful tran­si­tion of power” in this coun­try of 35 mil­lion peo­ple.

“Many coun­tries are suf­fer­ing amid power strug­gles,” Sulie­man said. “I am here for the sake of sta­bil­ity and safety.”

Al- Bashir, dressed in white tra­di­tional robes, later ar­rived to the same polling place, sur­rounded by body­guards. The 71- year- old leader cast his bal­lot and waved to sup­port­ers, say­ing “God is great” be­fore leav­ing in a con­voy.

Al- Bashir has ruled Su­dan un­chal­lenged for 25 years and presents him­self as a sym­bol of sta­bil­ity. He sur­vived the 2011 Arab Spring and his mas­sive se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus has left the once-vi­brant op­po­si­tion a husk of its for­mer self.

The 2011 se­ces­sion of South Su­dan, which ended Africa’s long­est-run­ning civil war, de­prived Khar­toum of a third of its ter­ri­tory and pop­u­la­tion, and nearly 80 per­cent of its oil rev­enues. Smaller armed con­flicts are cur­rently rag­ing in other parts of his coun­try.

As long as he re­mains pres­i­dent, al-Bashir re­mains im­mune from be­ing sent to the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court on charges of or­ches­trat­ing geno­cide dur­ing the Dar­fur con­flict, which left 300,000 peo­ple dead and 2 mil­lion dis­placed.

Eco­nomic losses from South Su­dan’s suc­ces­sion forced alBashir to em­bark on aus­ter­ity mea­sures in 2013 that sparked the largest anti- gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tions of his rule. Se­cu­rity forces clamped down, killing some 200 peo­ple and ar­rest­ing hun­dreds more.

Mo­hammed Hashim, a busi­ness­man who voted Mon­day, de­fended the crack­down, say­ing “de­ten­tions are meant to pre­serve the rights of oth­ers.”

“The Arab Spring pro­duced wars and failed in em­body­ing peo­ple’s dreams,” he said. “The Arab Spring failed and what we have here is bet­ter.”

Nearly 13 mil­lion peo­ple are reg­is­tered to vote. Re­sults are ex­pected on April 27.

AP

A mem­ber of the Su­danese se­cu­rity forces casts his bal­lot at a polling sta­tion on the first day of Su­dan’s pres­i­den­tial and leg­isla­tive elec­tions, in Khar­toum, Su­dan on Mon­day, April 13.

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