On Monday evening, Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) nominated President Omar al-Bashir as one of its potential candidates in the April 2015 presidential election. While the NCP also named four other candidates, there is no doubt that Bashir will emerge as the party’s top representative. Meaning there is little chance that Sudan’s political landscape will see the reforms opposition figures have been clamoring for.
Bashir took power in the wake of a 1989 military coup – and has served as president ever since. His rule has been marked by widespread repression and intolerance. In our Blouin Beat primer on longstanding dictatorships, we noted that this totalitarian ruler introduced strict Islamic law to parts of Sudan, offered terrorists like Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden (brief) political sanctuary and, in 2003, led a campaign of genocide in the Darfur region that killed some 300,000 Sudanese and displaced millions. The result: Bashir is one of the few sitting heads of state wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes and genocide.
While there have been some indications that Bashir’s grip on power is not as ironclad as it once was – e.g., protests over fuel subsidies in late 2013, and recent reports of the president’s ill health that cast doubt on his ability to rule — Monday’s announcement reveals that the Sudanese leader is eager to extend his tenure, pledges to the contrary notwithstanding. In recent weeks, the president’s administration has made much of its purported efforts to broaden national dialogue, notably the recent lifting of a ban on an opposition newspaper, and the ruling party’s democratic nomination process.
Sudan’s dubious, and admittedly weak, opposition movement is gearing up nonetheless, with two parties (the National Uma Party and the National Consensus Forces) joining forces in the hopes of brokering change in Sudan’s political system. Following a two-day meeting this weekend, the coalition’s leaders stated that they will reach their objective through “productive dialogue or a peaceful popular uprising.” If past is prologue, however, both options are improbable. Bashir is set to prolong his rule, which is nearing an impressive 10,000 days in power.