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Sudan Expert Says Yasir Arman's Withdrawal from Election Significant

Leading candidates in Sudan's first multiparty presidential election, from left, Yasir Arman, Omar al-Beshir and Sadiq al-Mahdi (file photos)

Fouad Hikmat of the International Crisis Group says Arman was seen as one of the candidates who would compete with President Bashir

A key presidential candidate in Sudan’s upcoming elections has reportedly withdrawn from the race.

Officials from the former rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), said late Wednesday that their candidate, Yasir Arman, pulled out of the election because of electoral irregularities and continued conflict in Darfur.

Fouad Hikmat, special advisor on Sudan for the International Crisis Group said Arman’s withdrawal is significant because he was seen as one of the favorites to compete with incumbent President Omar al-Bashir in the April 11 elections.

“It is a very significant news that the SPLM, considered as one of the main contenders in the election, especially their candidate for the presidency withdraws from the contestation. And I am sure this is being done in the context of how to stabilize the political conflict in Sudan so that the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) to continue to pass the election to reach the referendum,” he said.

While saying that its presidential candidate was withdrawing from the race, the SPLM however said it would present candidates for regional and legislative elections.

Hikmat also described the SPLM move as significant because he said the legislature in the new government after the elections would be extremely important.

Map of Northern and Southern Sudan
Map of Northern and Southern Sudan

“The newly elected legislature has got a couple of very important functions. One is that it will manage the implementation of the provisions that will lead to the referendum, and at the same time it will look into the legal framework and the parameters given that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement is going to cease and the interim national constitution is going to cease by July 2011,” Hikmat said.

In a joint statement Wednesday, the United States, Britain and Norway voiced concern about restrictions on political freedoms in the lead up to the Sudanese elections.

Hikmat said the withdrawal of Yasir Arman should not come as a surprise to the international community.

“No, I don’t think it came as a surprise because as you know in December the National Congress Party made a very clear point to the SPLM to withdraw Yasir Arman because they think that the contestation of Yasir Arman in the presidency might jeopardize the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Hikmat said.

The International Crisis Group in a new report Tuesday accused Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party of trying to rig the April elections in the troubled Darfur region.

Hikmat said the report emphasized that the legal environment for free and fair elections does not exist in Sudan.

“This report is an update of a previous one which argued that the pre-elections preparation prevailing today in Darfur does not constitute an environment for a fair and free election that will bring about a sustainable solution to the Darfur problem,” Hikmat said.