Can the military leadership in the Republic of Sudan offer free and fair elections?

The republic of Sudan is scheduled to hold elections in July 2023, though no date has been fixed yet. The military ruler General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has promised to hold free and fair national elections. This promise came after dissolving a civilian-led government in 2021 in a military takeover that halted a power-sharing agreement between the army and civilians.

Political analysts have argued that the military leaders can’t be trusted to deliver free and fair elections, in an election where they have vested interests. They raise concerns over the independence of the National Electoral Commission given that the current Constitutional Charter grants the military the authority to appoint the National Election Commission. It is expected that the military will appoint its allies to the commission to manage the elections. In addition, they call for reforming the 2008 Election Law that was enacted by the Islamists.

The planned elections will be implemented within the electoral legislation framework. Of significance to political financing is the Political Parties Act,2008 that provides for public funding of political parties, though hardly enforced and largely remains as text in the law. The Bashir government for a long-time deprived opposition parties of public funds while the National Congress Party, the party in power enjoyed access to public resources. The same act provides for private funding of political parties whose sources should be transparent and made public, but this is largely undermined by the absence of the regulation mechanism.

There have been expressed fears that elections organised under the military rulership of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan will not differ so much from Bashir’s era. It remains to be seen if the provisions for public funding of political parties participating in the elections will be enforced.

Whereas the military regime pledged commitment to organise elections this year, 2023 and return the country back to civilian rule, scepticism still lingers within the Sudanese nationals of having free and fair elections amidst a host of structural challenges such as the capacity and independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

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