File Photo: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir April 2012, (Photo: Reuters)
Sudan's opposition Congress Party will boycott next year's elections because the restrictive political climate does not allow for fair polls, its leader Ibrahim al-Sheikh said on Sunday, further undermining the credibility of the vote.
The Congress Party is the latest in a series of groups to declare that they would not take part in the April elections.
Its decision comes after Sudan's ruling party chose Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide, as its candidate for the presidential vote, sealing his bid to extend his 25-year rule.
Speaking at a news conference after he was barred by airport authorities from leaving Khartoum earlier on Sunday, Sheikh said his party would also boycott a national dialogue called by Bashir in January. A meeting to prepare the ground for that dialogue is set to begin on Sunday with heavyweight opposition groups largely absent.
"The political climate in the country is not suitable for (elections and the national dialogue) given the full control of the security apparatus and intelligence over all aspects of the state and in the light of the continued restrictive laws," he told reporters.
Sheikh was freed from jail in September after spending three months in custody for criticizing the security and intelligence services and accusing them of involvement in abuses against civilians in the western Darfur region.
Authorities barred him from travelling to the United Arab Emirates from Khartoum early on Sunday, saying he was on a blacklist, Sheikh said. He called the ban a violation of his constitutional right to travel.
Bashir pledged in January to redraw the constitution, bring opposition parties into government, and launch a national dialogue, but no visible progress has been made.
The few active opposition movements in Sudan are already losing hope of any change while an economic crisis that has worsened since the secession of the oil-rich south in 2011 has angered struggling citizens.
But some Sudanese feel they cannot trust alternatives to Bashir, who has proven himself a political survivor, fighting off coup attempts, civil wars, and international isolation.