FACTBOX: South Kordofan elections

By Muhammad Osman

10 April, 2011 (Sudan Tribune)

Voters in Sudan’s volatile state of South Kordofan are due to go to the polls on May 2 to elect a state governor and members of the state assembly, in a long-delayed exercise which analysts fear could destabilize the oil-producing region if it falls short of prudent legitimacy standards.

Gubernatorial and state assembly elections in Sudan’s central state of South Kordofan lagged behind as the country held nationwide elections in April 2010, thanks to disputes arising from the 2008 census and delimitation of geographic constituencies.

The country’s fifth largest state by area witnessed fierce battles during decades of Sudan’s north-south civil wars, which ended in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) under which the south voted to split, in a referendum earlier this year.

South Kordofan lies on the fault line between north and south Sudan, incorporating: the Nuba population, which largely sided with the south during the war, as well as the Hawazma and Messirya nomadic Arab tribes who were then believed to be used as proxy militias by the north to fight the south.

The state abuts the explosive region of Abyei, another bone of contention between the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A) in South Sudan and the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the north.

Under the CPA, South Kordofan is meant to hold popular consultations, in order to determine whether the agreement has met the aspirations of its citizens and resolve any outstanding issues related to its implementation.

The popular consultation, which is delayed pending the conduct of the state’s elections, does not accommodate a right to self-determination for South Kordofan which will remain a part of northern Sudan regardless of the consultation’s outcome, but may retain some autonomy

New Census

A new census was conducted in South Kordofan in June 2010. The results have significantly increased the 1,406,404 count recorded by the disputed census to 2,508,268 persons.

Accordingly, the Khartoum-based National Elections Commission (NEC), which administers the elections, redrew geographic constituencies in November and December 2010, dividing the state into 32 geographic constituencies.

Voter Registration

The registration of voters was conducted from January 24 to February 24 by 110 mobile teams at 1,463 registration centres. According to the NEC, some 642,555 have registered to vote.

Being the only international observation mission in the state, the US-based Carter Center noted in a press release issued on March 29 that the voter registration process was undermined by “several shortcomings.”

According to Carter Center, which deployed six observers who visited 67 voter registration centres in 19 of the state’s constituencies, these shortcomings include the NEC’s failure to devote sufficient registration teams and a lack of voter education.

The final voter registry, which was published by the NEC on March 4, includes 642,558 voters out of an eligible 1,172,406 voters. The Carter Center noted that the number of registrants is “approximately 100,000 fewer” than during the April 2010 elections.

Contesters – showdown of Al-Hilu and Harun

The final list of candidates was published by NEC on 27 March, showing that nearly 200 candidates, including independents, will vie in the elections of state assembly.

With electoral campaigns already underway since 4 April, much attention is expected to be focused on the competition for the state governor office between the two frontrunners; the NCP’s incumbent candidate Ahmad Harun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes allegedly committed in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, and the SPLM’s candidate Abdul Aziz Adam al-Hilu.

The withdrawal of Mekki Ali Balail of the Justice Party and Al Tahir Khalil Hammouda of the National Umma Party from the gubernatorial race has increased the possibility of an alliance being forged against the NCP’s candidate.

Another candidate running independently is Telefon Kuku, a veteran Nuba army general who remains a prisoner of the SPLM in South Sudan.

Warnings of “localized violence”

An unpublished paper by the political analyst Aly Verjee notes that South Kordofan “remains one of Sudan’s most heavily militarized regions,” citing “credible reports” of recent military build up in the state.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune, Aly Verjee warned that failure of the elections in South Kordofan may yield “localized violence.”

"As with the census and the 2010 elections, there remains a risk of localized violence. It’s unlikely that this broadens into a state wide security challenge, but incidents of coercion and intimidation are often difficult to see,” he said. “Popular mistrust in the process may lead to conflict."


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