Party clears hurdle for Bashir to stand again in 2020 elections

Saturday August 11 2018

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. FILE PHOTO |

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. FILE PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

By MOHAMMED AMIN
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By FRED OLUOCH
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Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) has amended its constitution to allow President Omar Al-Bashir to stand as its candidate in the 2020 elections.

The party made the announcement late Thursday after its consultative council, the Shura, adopted the amendment unanimously.

The chairman of the Shura Council, the party’s legislature, Prof Kabashor Kuku, confirmed that NCP has abolished its two-term limit for a presidential candidate.

“After long consultations among the elected consultative council members, we have come to a consensus to nominate President Omar Al-Bashir for another term,” he said.

The amendment paves the way for the party to change the Sudanese Constitution that allows a president to serve a maximum of two five-year terms.

This is an about-turn for President Bashir, 74, who only last year announced he would not stand in the 2020 elections, and even identified his successor; Mohammed Tahir Ayala, the governor of Gezira State.

Analysts say President al-Bashir’s decision to announce his successor was only testing the waters and to appease the United States and persuaded it to lift the 20-year economic sanctions against Sudan.

The Trump administration lifted the sanctions last year, but still maintains Sudan on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

According to Magnus Tailor, an expert on Sudan and Uganda, President al-Bashir would want to say the right things when engaging the international community, especially the US.

More so, Mr Ayala’s first reaction after being announced successor was to reaffirm his support for President Bashir’s re-lection in 2020.

Secondly NCP’s Sufi Order—an Islamic wing of the party—immediately called for a change of the Constitution to allow the president to contest again.

President al-Bashir had followed through his promise in 2014 to introduce political reforms.

Besides holding a national dialogue and forming a government of national unity that included willing opposition politicians, President al-Bashir had promised to open up political space to allow civil society and religious freedom.

President al-Bashir has also re-introduced the position of the prime minister that had been abolished after the 1989 coup, but the hardliners within the NCP still call the shots in government.

He has ruled Sudan for 29 years after seizing power in the military coup in 1989.

He was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur in 2009.

Despite the ICC arrest warrant, he won in the 2010 and 2015 elections that were marred by controversy and opposition boycotts.