Sudan Elections 2015: A Brief Who is Who
Part 1: The National Congress Party and the Islamic Movement (focusing on ruling party and leadership since Sudan’s 2010 elections)
Sudan’s 2015 elections are scheduled for April, despite calls from opposition movements to postpone the decision in order to provide more time for the “national dialogue” that began in January 2014 to bear fruit. It is still unclear whether President Omar al-Bashir of the National Congress Party (NCP) will be declared eligible to run for president again (laws must be changed for that to happen, and a few people have been dismissed from prominent posts for stating that the president will NOT be eligible), and also whether opposition parties will boycott again as they did in 2010. In preparation for the 2015 Sudan elections, this series is a brief background of a few of the more prominent political parties and individuals in the political scene in Sudan. Part 1 of Sudan Elections 2015 outlines the basics of the National Congress Party and its support group, the Islamic Movement. Part 2 of this series will focus on the political opposition, and Part 3 on the armed opposition.
National Congress Party (NCP)
Formed in 1996 and recognized as the only legal political party in Sudan from 1998 until the lead-up to the 2010 elections, the NCP emerged from a split in the National Islamic Front (NIF) that seized control in Khartoum on June 30, 1989. Since the 2010 elections, the NCP has held 324 of the 450 seats in the National Assembly. The party has an ideology that is centered on an Islamic state (the majority of Sudanese are Sunni Muslims) and pan-Arabism, and has been criticized for its harsh policies towards peripheral areas of Sudan – notably Darfur and Southern Sudan until the latter became independent in 2011.
President of the Republic of Sudan and Chairman of the NCP, Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir leaped onto the political scene in 1989 when, as a colonel in the Sudan Armed Forces, he led a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi (see NUP section in Part 2). Hailing from central Sudan (from the Ja’aliyyin Arab groups along the Nile), Omar al-Bashir came to the presidency at a time when the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) was raging, and throughout his career he has been overtly critical of Southern Sudanese, on several occasions referring to Southern military and political leaders as “insects” or “rats”. Until the mid-1990s, Bashir was closely allied with Hassan al-Turabi (see PCP section in Part 2), widely perceived in 1989 to be the power behind Omar al-Bashir’s leadership. In the mid-1990s, a rift emerged between Bashir and Turabi, culminating in Turabi’s forceful removal from his position as Speaker of the Sudan National Assembly in 1999 (the “palace coup”). Bashir presided over both the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 that ended the war between Sudan and South Sudan, and over the escalation of conflict in Darfur from 2003 onward. The violent conflict in Darfur largely carried out by state-funded and ethnically-mobilized militias (“Janjaweed,” now generally referred to as “Rapid Support Forces”) resulted in the International Criminal Court indicting Bashir in 2008. In 2010, Bashir was elected president in elections that many Western nations did not believe were fair or transparent; however, given the banning of other political parties in the decade before the election and the boycott of the election by newly legalized opposition parties, any other outcome would have been very unlikely.
2014 timeline: Omar al-Bashir
January: Following NCP hints that Bashir would unveil a major reform program, Bashir makes a noncommittal speech referring to a “Sudanese renaissance” while addressing a multi-party gathering at the Friendship Hall in Khartoum.
May: The NCP announces that upcoming general elections may be delayed. The National Election Commission (NEC) insists that the 2008 election law must be changed in order to delay elections. The Government of Sudan and the NCP receive criticism for a crackdown on freedom of speech as opposition leader and former PM Sadiq al-Mahdi is arrested over comments connecting Sudanese security forces (Rapid Support Forces, under NISS) with war crimes.
June: The Government of Sudan releases al-Mahdi, but detains Sudanese Congress Party leader Ibrahim al-Sheikh after he criticizes the RSF militias.
Notable past cabinet members:
- Ali Osman Taha, Vice President of Sudan from 1998-2013 (First Vice President 1998-2005 and 2011-2013).
- Salva Kiir Mayardit, First Vice President of Sudan from 2005 until he became president of the newly independent Republic of South Sudan on July 9, 2011.
Other notable NCP figures:
- Bakri Hassan Saleh, First Vice President, 2013-2014
- Hassabo Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, Second Vice President
- Ibrahim Ghandour, presidential assistant
- Abdel Rahim Hussein, Defence Minister
- Al-Fatih Izz al-Din, Speaker of the National Assembly
- Col. Gen. Esmat Abdel-Rahman, Interior Minister and former Chief of Staff
Islamic Movement (IM)
As the NCP split with Hassan al-Turabi in 1999, it lost some of its connections to religious support, both in Sudan and internationally, which Turabi, as an Islamic scholar with international connections, had been key in mobilizing. The Islamic Movement is not a political party but rather a support organization that attempts to bring Islamist and Sufi groups to support the NCP. Sudan’s political history has featured prominent Sufi brotherhoods that have been behind many political movements since the days of the Mahdiyya during the 1880s-1890s. The IM exists largely to liaise with various religious groups and leaders in order to sustain a base of support for the NCP.
Secretary General: Al-Zubair Ahmad al-Hassan