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Sudan’s Elections Chief Promises Free, Fair Vote Amid Boycott

FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
FILE - Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

The chairman of Sudan’s Independent Electoral Commission said the country’s April 13 presidential and parliamentary elections will be free and fair.

Mukhtar Al-Assam said all candidates are allowed to have their representatives present at each polling station and stay with the ballot boxes until results are announced.

He said 3,500 candidates representing 45 political parties are competing for 1,300 seats.

Sudan’s main opposition parties are boycotting Monday’s vote, saying it would not be free and fair because President Omar al-Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party controls everything.

Al-Assam said Sudan is under a constitutional mandate to hold the elections because President Bashir’s term ends in April 2015.

“It is free and fair because all candidates are allowed to have their representatives in the polling stations to stay with the ballot boxes until the results are announced. So, there is no way that this election is going to be not free,” he said.

Al-Assam said the elections had been scheduled since 2010, and opposition political parties boycotting the vote have the freedom to do so.

“Those political parties, all of them understood since 2010 that there was going to be an election in 2015. And as I told you, I don’t of know any means by which a government can extend its term of office,” Al-Assam said.

He said Sudan is under a constitutional mandate to hold the elections.

“The term of office of this government ends in April 2015, and we have to have an elected government otherwise the government will not be a representative government, it will not be a legal government, and it will not be a constitutional government,” Al-Assam said.

Most of the known opposition parties are boycotting the vote. Hassan Osman Rizig, deputy president of the opposition Reform Now Movement party told VOA recently the election would not be free and fair because the government controls virtually everything in Sudan.

Al-Assam, however, said the electoral commission is an independent body elected by the parliament, including all the opposition parties that are boycotting this year’s vote.

“This is an independent commission. We had been elected by the parliament since 2010, and when we were elected to this post, all the political parties, including the opposition were part of the parliament that elected us. So this commission has been appointed, elected, and endorsed by a parliament in which the opposition, including SPLA / SPLM were part of,” Al-Assam said.

The European Union is not sending observers to Monday’s election because it believes the poll would not “produce a credible result with legitimacy throughout the country,” said EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini.

Al-Assam challenged the EU and other critics to tell his commission how Sudan can have a legal government without having an election.

“If they can tell me how I can have a legal, constitutional government without an election, I have no answer. But the European Union has got no answer. If we don’t run an election 2015 in April, then... Sudan will be chaos,” Al-Assam said.

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