Sudan's Islamist opposition leader Hassan Al-Turabi, October 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
One of Sudan's main opposition parties will boycott elections set for April because a lack of democracy will not allow a fair vote, a senior party official said on Monday, diminishing the credibility of the ballot.
The Popular Congress Party, led by veteran Islamist Hassan al-Turabi, is one of only a few notable opposition groups in Sudan who all accuse President Omar al-Bashir of manoeuvring to cling to power despite a promise to step down in 2015.
Bashir, 70, has ruled since a 1989 military coup and has weathered rebellions, economic crisis and an indictment by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of having orchestrated war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.
"We are boycotting because there is no favourable climate for elections, there are wars in the country and there are no freedoms," Kamal Omar, the PCP's political secretary, told Reuters by telephone.
Opposition parties accuse Bashir of continuing to jail dissidents, censoring the media and closing newspapers, making a mockery of his stated commitment to a national dialogue.
The opposition also boycotted the last presidential election in April 2010, citing fraud. Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on April 2.
Though Bashir has promised to step down, opposition groups now believe that is unlikely and are predicting an unfair vote.
The Islamist president has been working to shore up his power in the face of an economic crisis since South Sudan declared independence in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country's pre-secession oil output.
"To hold the elections in these conditions will lead to disaster," Omar said, noting that his party had participated in a national dialogue called for by Bashir but which had not resulted in any new consensus.
"To hold elections without a national agreement makes the dialogue absurd," he said.