Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:28 am (KSA) 21:28 pm (GMT)

Sudan's opposition Umma declares poll boycott

Sudanese men read the lastest news about election in Khartoum newspapers (File)
Sudanese men read the lastest news about election in Khartoum newspapers (File)

Sudan's Umma Party leader Sadeq al-Mahdi on Thursday agreed to his party's decision to boycott the upcoming elections. Umma Party, one of the main opposition parties, said late Wednesday it would boycott next week's presidential, legislative and gubernatorial polls, blighting the credibility of Sudan's first multi-party polls in 24 years.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had hoped to win the Apr.11 polls in defiance of an International Criminal Court warrant for his arrest to legitimize his rule in Africa's largest country.

"The elections will be fair and free and clean and exemplary," Bashir told a large gathering in northern Sudan on Thursday.

They will be clean, because "elections are a religious duty," the Islamist-leaning leader said at the event, which was broadcast on state television.

Umma Party

 Several points of view were heard. In the end, we came to the conclusion that our conditions for postponing the elections had not been accepted 
Sarah Nugdalla, Umma Party

"We have decided to boycott the electoral process at all levels," Sarah Nugdalla, head of Umma's political bureau, told a group of journalists after a party meeting on Wednesday in Omdurman, across the River Nile from Khartoum.

The credibility of the three-day elections was already in doubt after another opposition party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, widened its boycott of the vote and EU monitors pulled out of Darfur.

Umma was among a group of opposition parties that had given the Sudanese government four days from Apr. 2 to put into place key reforms in return for a pledge to take part in that elections that would be pushed back to May.

"The political bureau discussed the issue over the past two days," Nugdalla said.

"Several points of view were heard. In the end, we came to the conclusion that our conditions for postponing the elections had not been accepted."

Nugdallah said Umma party leader Mahdi had been granted the right to "take action in the national interests," but three party officials said this would not affect the decision to boycott the elections.

Two party sources earlier said Mahdi may consider taking a position similar to that of the ex-southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), which on Tuesday announced a boycott in the north, except in the central Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

Boycott

Head of the opposition Umma Party Sadeq al-Mahdi announces his party's boycott

Mahdi was the last democratically elected leader of Sudan in 1986 and was one of Bashir's two main challengers in the presidential polls.

Umma had won the previous legislative elections in 1986, only to be removed from power later by current president Bashir.

The upcoming presidential, legislative and local elections are seen as a prelude to a referendum on independence for southern Sudan that is scheduled for January 2011.

But the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement said late on Tuesday that it was extending its boycott of the election to include the northern states in Sudan including Darfur.

However, it still plans to field candidates in the sensitive border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, where it enjoys support.

Umma's leader, former prime minister Sadek al-Mahdi, met Wednesday with SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum, before the party's decision to boycott the elections was announced.

The Democratic Unionist Party, which came second to Umma in the 1986 contest, said on Tuesday it would present Hatim al-Sir as presidential candidate, after an initial decision to boycott.

The favorite to threaten Bashir, SPLM candidate Yasser Arman, withdrew last week citing major fraud and the continuing conflict in Darfur, sparking a crisis of confidence in the elections and leaving a loose opposition alliance in disarray.

On Wednesday the biggest international observer mission, from the European Union, said it was withdrawing its observers from war-torn Darfur because fighting and kidnappings were restricting the movement of its staff, undermining their ability to observe election preparations.

The Communist Party, the Umma breakaway Reform and Renewal and other smaller parties announced a full boycott last week.

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