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Political Parties

A transitional constitution was signed in October 1985 and numerous political groups emerged in preparation for the elections, which took place in April 1986. No single party won outright, however, and a coalition government was formed between the Umma Party (UP), led by Sadiq al-Mahdi and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), led by Osman al-Mirghani, with al-Mahdi becoming Prime Minister. On 30 June 1989, a bloodless coup, led by Brigadier Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (later to become Lt. General) removed al-Mahdi's Government and formed a 15-member Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation (RCC).

The RCC declared its primary aim was to resolve the civil war. A state of emergency was declared and President al-Bashir proceeded to dismantle the civilian ruling apparatus, the constitution and the National Assembly. All trade unions and political parties were abolished. The RCC-NS banned all political parties following the 1989 coup and arrested several political leaders including the deposed prime minister, Sadiq al Mahdi. Nevertheless, all northern parties that existed at the time of the coup maintained their party structures outside the country or in southern areas controlled by antigovernment forces. Some banned political parties actually operated fairly openly in Khartoum and other urban centers.

The 1999 Political Association Act lifted the ban on political parties. The 1999 Political Association Act, revised by the 2000 Political Organisational Act, allows political parties to be officially recognised provided they register with the Government. The law, however, imposes the restriction that all new parties must adhere to the ruling party's ideology. New political parties are approved at the discretion of the Government's registrar. The registrar is appointed by the president with the approval of the National Assembly.

There were approximately 50 registered political parties. The Umma Party, Democratic Unionist Party, and Communist Party were not registered with the government. The government continued to harass some opposition leaders who spoke with representatives of foreign organizations or embassies. While the NCP dominates the political institutions, the opposition parties created an unofficial umbrella organization called the National Consensus Forces (NCF). Despite the NCFs efforts to create a comprehensive political platform and the presence of some opposition members in the National Assembly and other positions, the opposition forces remain unorganized and largely unable to affect government policy. The NCP's goal was to divide opposition party leadership while endlessly negotiating false "agreements" that only served to further weaken the opposition.

From 2005 through 2011 the two CPA signatories - the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP) - formed the basis of the Government of National Unity (GNU) and control most aspects of political life in Sudan (with the NCP controlling the North and the SPLM controlling the South), opposition parties with historical constituencies continue to operate despite significant restrictions, even in the troubled and controversial region of Darfur. Most of the political parties present in Khartoum are represented in Darfur. In North Darfur, the main political parties present are the National Congress Party, National Popular Congress Party, Umma National Party, Communist Party, Democratic Unionist Party (Merghani Branch), Democratic Unionist Party (Hindi Branch), Sudanese People's Liberation Movement and Sudanese Liberation Movement/Minni Minawi (SLM/MM).

The Sudanese Communist Party was founded in Sudan in 1946. It was a major force in the country's politics and was one of the two most influential Communist parties in the Arab world (along with the Iraqi Communist party) until 1971 when a planned military coup by pro-Communist military officers was discovered by Sudan's ex-President Gaafar Neimeri. As a result of the failed attempt, the party's most prominent and best known leaders, Abdel Khalig Mahjub, Joseph Garang and Hashim Alatta, were executed. The SCP is led by Mohammed Ibrahim Nugud and plays a marginal role in Sudanese politics.

After weeks of delay, the Sudan National Assembly (NA) finally passed the electoral law 07 July 2008, capping a contentious special legislative session called specifically for the purpose of passing the law. As passed July 7, the bill provides for a hybrid voting system, with 60 percent of seats to be decided by a first-past-the-post basis, and the remaining 40 percent determined by proportional voting. The proportional vote will take place at the state level, representing a concession by the NCP to the SPLM. These provisions were contained in the deal worked out between the SPLM and the NCP.

Smaller parties had said they were generally content with NCP-SPLM compromise. However, during the legislative session three parliamentary blocs - the National Democratic Alliance, Darfur peace, and the Eastern Front -- continued to press 43 points of disagreement with the draft. There was talk of walking out of voting if their concerns were ignored. In an attempt to bring the smaller parties on board, the NA amended the draft, lowering the threshold for parties to obtain representation in the Assembly from five to four percent of the vote.

Sudan's new 2008 election law is categorical in prohibiting political parties from receiving financial assistance for campaign activities from foreign governments, foreign NGOs, or any other foreign group. This language seems to make it difficult for foreign governments and NGOs to assist political parties in preparing for elections. Kennedy said the language appears to prohibit many kinds of assistance that the UN has traditionally provided in emerging democracies.

The election law requires each party participating in a given election (for example, for the National Assembly) to present a complete list of candidates for geographic constituencies as well as for the women's lists for that election. Each list must present a candidate for every seat up for election. This presents a perhaps insurmountable challenge for some of Sudan's smaller parties, particularly when coupled with two other requirements: First, the law contains a literacy requirement for all candidates, for all the legislative assemblies - and this in a country with widespread illiteracy, which is particularly high among women. The literacy requirement alone amounts to a substantial hurdle to the smaller parties - again, parties are required to field literate candidates for all available legislative seats, not just for those that they have a reasonable chance of winning. Second, the law demands that each party put down a substantial cash deposit for each candidate. Kennedy did the math, and points out that the deposit bill for each political party fielding candidates for the National Assembly alone (not including Sudan's many state assemblies) comes to $22,500 (USD).

The law stipulates that deposits will be returned to the parties only for seats for which they are victorious. The upshot here is that the smaller parties are required to post complete party lists, with a candidate for each seat in a legislative body, and then must pay a deposit for each candidate, when in fact these parties have little possibility of winning but a handful of seats. The result: smaller parties stand to forfeit substantial amounts of money in each election. If this provision is allowed to stand, the "perfect storm" of complete lists, literacy requirements, and cash deposits threatens to become an insurmountable barrier, intimidating many of the smaller parties from participating. In addition, the cash requirements will put a premium on parties "selling themselves" to well-heeled domestic donors (there does not appear to be a limit on domestic campaign contributions).

Authorities monitored and impeded political party meetings and activities, restricted political party demonstrations, used excessive force to break them up, and arrested opposition party members. In 2011 the SPLM-N leadership called for the overthrow of the government and was outlawed as a political party. Its offices in Khartoum and other states were closed after the outbreak of violence in Blue Nile State. The government confiscated party documents and property. At least 25 SPLM-N members were arrested, including an SPLM-N member of parliament, Izdihar Guma. At the end of 2012 all had been released from detention. Following the suppression of the SPLM-N, the government banned 16 other political parties; South Sudan-affiliated groups did not contest the ban.

The main opposition parties, Umma National Party, National Consensus Forces, Sudanese Congress Party, and the Popular Congress Party, boycotted the April 2015 election itself; only the ruling NCP party and National Unity parties participated. The NCP dominated the political landscape, controlling all of the regional governorships and holding a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. Various other parties held the remainder, with the SPLM-Peace Wing holding eight seats and the Popular Congress Party and Democratic Unionist Party each holding four.

The Political Parties Affairs Council listed 79 registered political parties, but organizers of the National Dialogue claimed that it involved more than 90 political parties. The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party were never registered with the government. The Reform Now Party registered as a political party during the year. The government continued to harass some opposition leaders who spoke with representatives of foreign organizations or embassies or travelled abroad.

The Political Parties Affairs Council oversees the registration of political parties. The ruling party controls the council; it is not an independent body. The council continued to refuse to register the Republican (Jamhori) Party, which opposes Islamic fundamentalism and promotes secularism. The party leader condemned the decision and filed a complaint in the Constitutional Court. Authorities monitored and impeded political party meetings and activities, restricted political party demonstrations, used excessive force to break them up, and arrested opposition party members.





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