Presiding over the Sudanese election is the General from the US playing king maker. Over the past 48 hours the US State Department’s position as expressed by Mr Gration has been the decisive element overhauling the mess of contradictory statements made by the mainstream opposition parties in the North, the last being the (Governor) General’s declaration that the elections would be as “free and fair as possible”, after an apparently candid meeting with members of the National Electoral Commission.
Bashir and Kiir, generals themselves, can rejoice at such high profile approval from the most powerful state in the world, however, for how long, and at what price? If the hypothesis of a Gration-mediated ‘no trespassing’ deal between the two power blocs, Bashir and Co and Kiir/Machar is to be accepted what follows is not necessarily a guarantee of a stable post-elections government nor for that matter a smooth referendum and a peaceful secession. Maintenance of the balance of power requires a sovereign above the wrangling of the two, which both acknowledge, and to which both turn to for respite and consideration. In theory, that should be the Sudanese constituency; and the vote should be the tool to channel the will of this constituency. In practice, however, as has been evident for the last few months, and acutely so in the last few days, the General seems to be the sovereign per procurationem. His word is the final and his judgement the ultimate!
The government expected to emerge from the current situation remains a military one, resting on the ultimate legitimacy of military power. Elections as they are set to take place may well satisfy Grationate criteria of freedom and fairness, but they will, by no means, achieve popular legitimacy. What is taking place is a consolidation of autocratic rule via formal democratic means.
The siphoning of political space via the NCP and SPLM, with the tools of the CPA, has generated a situation of blackmail, where opposition to the status quo is equated with opposition to the CPA, to the referendum, to peace, in other words where opposition is an impossible possibility. The choices left to political imagination are too narrow and, yes, too risky, to consider aloud. In any case, they will not find favour with Mr Gration.