Saturday, 22 August 2009

A note on the vote

Recently President Bashir has made it a habit to reiterate his commitment to a democratic transition in power, understood as surrender to the due of the ballot box and the logic of numbers. With each reiteration Bashir also makes it clear that he is sure the Sudanese will make the "right" choice and transfer power through the instrument of elections from his hands to his hands, only this time with the ceremonial grunts of submission, as stated in Khartoum's numberless Bashir election signboards, my favourite is: "Bashir, once our choice today our fate"!

In the same context both the security apparatus and the police force have been hammering the message home that the coming elections will be a violent and bloody feat. The latest statements of the leading figures of both institutions were an exposition of the possible patterns of violence, in terms of spatial and temporal arrangement. Apparently the statements were supposed to ensure us that the security forces are in full grip of affairs and are capable of containing any misbehaviour anytime anywhere. The sublime message however I claim was "beware, there will be violence, and alot of it". In that sense, what the police and security officers were demonstrating was more or less the "darker" side of President Bashir's utter confidence - though shall be elected. One has to be continuously reminded of the fact, lest one gets used to it, that Bashir today is one of the longest ruling African heads of state. He has ruled longer than any other Sudanese head of state or government, longer than Gamal Abdel Nasser (1956 - 1970), and longer than Anwar al Sadat (1970 - 1981) in Egypt.

To stay on the saddle Bashir needs to recruit his adversaries to his logic of numbers, i.e. the ballot as a stamp of legitimacy irrespective of context, in that sense his state continues, he calls the shots. Following pro-Bashir propaganda on radio and TV one gets the impression that he has already won the race, and his opponents are such poor spirits that they cant admit his victory. Judging by the statements of senior security and police staff these organs are already drilling for a scenario, in which Bashir wins and an angry mob, also possibly instigated and staged, attacks in discontent; the exit being an NCP offer to share power in yet another coalition of "national unity", whereby Bashir stays put and the country accommodates itself. This type of throttled compromise has become the endstage of celebrated "transitions" in the continent: Kibake and Odinga in Kenya, Mugabe and Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe, and lately Sassou-Nguesso and Poungui in Congo-Brazzaville.

The web-based Sudan Tribune reported today that a certain bloc in the American administration was entertaining the idea of pushing for postponement of the referendum on the future of Southern Sudan to 2013. In the current Juba-Khartoum constellation the two partners to the CPA might well accept such a proposal, bearing in mind how badly they both need Washington's legitimising approval, the SPLM running a bankrupt government in Southern Sudan and the NCP breathless for international de-demonisation. In any case, in Washington's imagination of the near Sudanese future Bashir is irreplaceable.

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This work by Magdi El Gizouli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.