30 April 2010

Sudanese Elections: Backstory and Future Prospects

Awesome noted on the blog earlier this week that indicted international war criminal/president Omal al-Bashir won reelection and that Salva Kiir had similarly cruised to reelection as vice president and (thus) president of the Autonomous Government of Southern Sudan. I've followed this election somewhat closely and wanted to throw in my $.02 on the situation in Sudan.

First, the elections were pretty much a sham. Go over to the Enough Project and read all about the abuses and irregularities perpetrated by the ruling party (or watch videos of the vote being rigged) or go read about all of the problems with the process listed by the Carter Center.

However, no one is making much of a fuss over this because...

a) Most of the opposition candidates did not participate, so there weren't really many choices for voters. This includes the candidate that was going to be put forward by the leading party in the South, the SLPA/M. The calculus by the SLPM seems to be...what's the point? Why worry about national elections when we are just going to secede next year?

b) As far as I can tell, the US and other Western governments seem to have made similar calculations--something like: yes, we could raise a big stink over these elections, but we want to stay on Bashir's good side in order to have at least a shot at a peaceful secession process next year (it seems fairly certain that the South will vote to secede).

There are a couple of problems with this prognosis by Southern Sudan and by the West. First, it presumes that Bashir will follow through with a fair referendum process next year and, if the South votes to secede, he will allow them to do so peacefully. This seems wildly optimistic given his past antics and the fact that huge issues such as border demarcation and oil revenues remain unresolved. For its part, Southern Sudan seems to be hedging its bets in order to force Bashir to think long and hard before trying to re-ignite the North-South Civil War that raged from the 80s all the way up until the CPA in '05.

But even assuming all goes as planned, a newly independent Southern Sudan faces seemingly insurmountable development obstacles including:
-crushing poverty (I've heard estimates that it would be the poorest country in the world)
-sporadic but deadly intercommunal violence
-periodic incursions by the Lord's Resistance Army
-landlocked with (mostly) bad neighbors, including Bashir's state, whose proximity will likely lead to very high military spending by the new state
-resource curse problems (with oil)
-likelihood of a one-party state dominated by the SPLA/M

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