Over at African Arguments, James Copnall makes some important observations about the recent elections in Sudan:
The result everyone was waiting for did, however, come with a turnout figure few expected. 46% of the electorate marked their ballot papers, according to the National Elections Commission. This figure will be received with some scepticism.
SPLM-North’s Yassir Arman estimated the real number at no more than 15%, while even the African Union monitors called the turnout ‘low’. Olusegun Obasanjo, the head of the monitoring team, said he thought 30-35% sounded about right, and certainly no more than 40%. Mahjoub Mohamed Salih, the legendary journalist who covered his first Sudanese election in 1953, also guessed the figure would be in the 30s.
The numbers matter. Bashir was certain to win, but large crowds of voters would have given greater legitimacy to his victory. Instead, there were widespread reports of low turnout and the polls had to be extended into a fourth day to encourage more people to vote.
Copnall goes on to estimate that not even all of the ruling parties official members could be bothered to vote. If so, this is a real problem for (reelected) President Bashir and the (largely military) leadership of the regime.
Sudan is in a deep economic crisis that has severely impacted the regime’s ability to spread wealth around, while simultaneously waging several civil wars. Instead of focussing on a political settlement and developing alternative income streams to oil rents, the regime has opted to seek a military solution to the various conflicts. This chicken has now come home to roost in a big way.
With its core base obviously disillusioned, it is more and more only military might and suppression that holds Bashir and his team in power. They will probably be able to sustain this for a while, maybe even several years, but not indefinitely.
Bashir probably knows this, which is why the Sudanese government has lobbied hard for debt relief with western governments. Hopefully this relief will only be granted after the regime has addressed some of the democratic deficiencies of the state.