South Sudan's leading party said on Wednesday it was withdrawing its candidate for the April’s presidential elections, paving the way for a likely victory for incumbent President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (pictured).
AFP- Key Sudanese presidential hopeful Yassir Arman has pulled out of April's vote, leaving the way clear for a first-round win by President Omar al-Beshir unless the opposition finds a single candidate.
The move, announced by Arman's ex-rebel group, came Wednesday after Beshir ruled out deferring the first multi-party polls in 24 years.
"I took the decision to withdraw for two reasons. Firstly, after having campaigned in Darfur, I realised that it was impossible to hold elections there due to the current state of emergency," Arman told AFP early Thursday.
"Secondly, there are irregularities in the electoral process which is rigged."
Stressing that his fight would continue despite his pullout from the race, Arman declared: "President Beshir is a burden for Sudan and for his own party. He's been leading Sudan for over 20 years. That's enough."
Beshir had told a political rally in Damazin, the capital of the Blue Nile state: "The elections will not be postponed or cancelled. They will take place on time."
"Our partner (in the government), the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, agrees with us," that the presidential, legislative and municipal elections should be held as planned on April 11-13, Beshir added.
But a few hours later an SPLM party official dropped the bombshell and announced that Arman was quitting the race.
He said however that the SPLM will present candidates to regional and legislative elections "across Sudan, except for Darfur".
Arman, 49, a secular Muslim from North Sudan, was selected in January by his ex-rebel group to challenge Beshir in April's presidential election and was regarded as a leading candidate.
His withdrawal means Beshir is assured of re-election in the first round of voting, unless the opposition parties, which meet on Thursday to decide whether to boycott the election, can come up with a single candidate.
On Monday Arman accused Beshir of trying to tamper with the polls, after a contract to print ballots went to a state-owned press.
"The National Congress Party has done all in its capacity to falsify the presidential election," Arman told reporters.
Earlier Wednesday a coalition of opposition groups warned that going ahead with the polls as scheduled would be, according to their spokesman Faruq Abu Issa, a "disaster".
Opposition groups say the conditions for a free and fair election are not in place and that insecurity in war-torn Darfur, in western Sudan, will also prevent participation of voters there.
"We stress the importance of postponing the elections until November in order to hold free and fair elections," said Mariam al-Mahdi from the opposition Umma party.
Human Rights Watch has said Sudanese government repression of its opponents and the media was threatening the chances of the elections being "free, fair, and credible".
An opposition boycott would secure the re-election of Beshir, who rose to power in an 1989 military coup backed by Islamists and who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Britain -- Sudan's former colonial power -- and Norway, a main provider of aid, joined the United States in expressing concern on Wednesday over the polls.
"We urge all parties in Sudan to work urgently to ensure that elections can proceed peacefully and credibly in April," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Store said.
"We are deeply concerned by reports of continued administrative and logistical challenges, as well as restrictions on political freedoms," they said.
The US, British and Norwegian foreign ministers also said the election should prove a "major milestone" in the 2005 agreement that ended a 22-year north-south civil war.
Under the peace deal, mostly Christian and animist southern Sudan obtained the right to hold a referendum in January 2011 on whether to break away from the Muslim-majority north.
On Monday, Beshir warned that an elections boycott by the SPLM former rebels would result in the north rejecting the south holding the referendum.
Date created : 2010-04-01