Veteran Sudan leader to run for re-election
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Veteran Sudan leader to run for re-election

Islamist Omar al-Bashir, in power for more than two decades, is wanted by International Criminal Court for genocide

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Consultative Council in the capital Khartoum, October 21, 2014.  (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Consultative Council in the capital Khartoum, October 21, 2014. (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AFP) — Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir — in power since a 1989 coup — will stand for re-election in 2015 after being retained Tuesday as leader of the ruling National Congress Party, a top aide said.

Bashir, the only sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), was re-elected as both leader and presidential candidate of the NCP at a party convention, said his chief assistant, Ibrahim Ghandour.

The 70-year-old career soldier took power in an Islamist-backed coup, and there had been doubts about whether he would run again in the controversial election, slated for April.

In a March interview, Ghandour said Bashir “declared many times that he’s not willing to” stand again but that the final decision was with the party.

Two knee operations over the summer also raised worries over his health.

But Bashir’s name was put on the party’s shortlist of five candidates and his tally in Tuesday’s vote was enough to rule out further voting, Ghandour said.

The president garnered 266 out of the 396 votes cast, Ghandour said, with the remainder of the 522 advisory council members choosing not to take part.

The other four nominees were all senior NCP officials seen as close to Bashir: Ghandour himself, senior member Nafie Ali Nafie, ex-vice president Ali Osman Taha and First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh.

‘Not serious about reform’

One advisory council member who chose not to vote said he abstained because he felt the five candidates were not serious about reforming the impoverished, war-ravaged country.

“Those five have been ruling for 25 years, and this means that they are not serious about reforms and they do not represent the diversity of Sudan,” he said, speaking anonymously on the sidelines of the convention.

But one analyst said the NCP delegates may have picked Bashir as a consensus candidate, as there have been signs of divisions within the party.

“I think the NCP members chose Bashir because he was the only one all of the could agree one,” said Mohammed Ali Jadain, a professor at Omdurman Ahlia University.

“He is the only one who can prevent their party from dividing,” he said.

In November 2012, intelligence chief Salah Gosh was arrested and charged with plotting a coup, before being released as part of an amnesty the following July.

At the time, experts said it reflected a power struggle in Bashir’s government.

Calls for ‘transitional’ government

The 2015 elections for the presidency, national and state parliaments will be only the second since the 1989 coup, and opposition parties have expressed concerns over them.

They have said the elections must come under the national dialogue announced by Bashir in January to try to resolve Sudan’s multiple crises.

Reform Now, a leading opposition party, called in August for a transitional administration to be put in place as part of the dialogue and a discussion about the 2015 ballot.

Bashir is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

At least 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur and two million forced to flee their homes since non-Arab rebels first rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime in 2003, the United Nations says.

The government puts the death toll at 10,000.

Rebels are also currently battling the government in the South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

Bashir also oversaw South Sudan’s split from the north, under a peace deal that ended a 22-year civil war.

The land-locked South left with most of the formerly united country’s 470,000 barrels per day of oil production. Pipelines and the Red Sea export terminal remain in Sudan, but the loss of oil revenues hit the north’s economy badly.

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