Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Sudan Election Outcomes: Pointing Towards a de facto Two-Party State

By John A. Akec
Source of Photograph: EL Sahafa Daliy

Some things are predictable, others are not. Sudan elections results had defied our earlier analysis, irrespective of whether or not they were rigged or fair. For instance, we expected NCP to continue to dominate our political scene, albeit with a reduced majority (refer to my article: A Chink of Light for Democracy? Published by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, 10 April, 2010; UK;

Instead, NCP got close to 90% of votes in the North. On the other hand, SPLM was expected to win elections in the South with a comfortable majority of between 70 and 75%. However, SPLM got over 80% of votes in the South.

What’s more, analysts expected both president Omer Al Bashir and vice president and president of Government of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, to win their seats. Overall, President Al Bashir got 68% (90% of which were obtained from the North), while GOSS President Salva Kiir got 93% of the votes in the South. This is not surprising, especially in regards to attaining win votes.

To sum up, the elections have seen both the Naivasha partners tighten their grip on power by increasing their mechanical majorities substantially.

Writing in the Citizen last week, the venerable Sudanese journalist and writer, Mahajoub Mohamed Saleh, wondered as to why many of the Sudan presidential candidates, apart from Omer Al Bashir and a few others, have failed to attain at least 15,000 votes which would be equivalent to the number of those who endorsed their candidacy. He asked if the presidential candidates’ endorsees have had a last minute change of mind when the real voting took place. Unconvinced by such a scenario, Majoub Saleh described the inconsistencies as puzzling. Many of us would be inclined to agree with this observation.

We also expected a number of independent candidates for gubernatorial positions to make it through. However, many of them failed, except one in Western Equatoria.

Initial counting showed a great threat being posed by SPLM independent candidates in Central Equatoria, Northern Bhal El Ghazal, Western Equatoria, and Unity Sates. It was noted that the independent candidate in Western Equatoria was involved in a neck to neck competition in which the incumbent Jemma Nunu was trailing behind the winning candidate, Jopseph Bokosoro, by just 6 percentage points. Many election watchers were taken by surprise when the results were announced and to see Nunu loose, while her counterparts in other states won in the 11th hour.

The architects of Nivasha agreement were wise in the way in which they rationed the power: 70% of positions in South Sudan for SPLM, 20% for NCP, and 10% for Southern parties; while at national level, 52% of positions in Federal government (both in the executive and legislative branches) went to NCP, 28% to SPLM, and 14% to other parties. That kind of balanced/rationed approach created a more democratic governance and oversight. It gave opposition a voice.

In order to find some answers to these election outcomes that gave the lion share to the two Naivasha partners, we need to turn to ‘science of election.’

Our understanding of elections is based on assumption that this is a kind of fair random dice. The truth is, it is more of a biased coin (two-faced, two-party duel), as opposed to six-faced dice, multiparty competition.

In fact, we may recall what Professor Hassan Maki, the well known Sudan political analyst, once described in El Sahafa newspaper, that what a political manifesto means in Sudan, saying it is really composed of 20% candidate’s charisma, 20% candidate’s tribal weight, 20% candidate’s financial muscle, and 15% due to the weight of the political party behind the candidate. This is now confirmed by these elections in which the most influential political parties (by the virtue of control of state apparatus, and large active membership) won by a wide margin. In other, words, what is in party’s manifesto is of no great consequence but is only a small proportion amongst many factors that voters depend on when choosing whom to vote into office.

Add to this, political theorists, like the French political scientist Maurice Duverger, argue that a first-past-the-post voting system ends up strengthening the top most powerful parties on the expense of other smaller parties. This is a system of voting in which the candidate that gets more votes in a constituency is declared a winner. This is the voting system that was followed in Sudan’s April elections. It is the same system being followed in US, Britain, Australia, and India. It is also called majoritarian system. Unlike the proportional voting system, which leads to a diversified multiparty government, Duverger’s Law maintains that experienced citizens regard smaller parties as unlikely to make significant difference in transforming their daily political reality, and therefore, bet on a stronger horse.

Interestingly still, the pollsters, especially in the Southern Sudan, were able to vote tactically. For example, one voter in Central Equatoria declared that her voting ‘mix’ was going to be composed of Salva Kiir (SPLM) for presidency of GOSS, Wani Iga (SPLM) for Southern Legislative Assembly, and Ladu Gore (Independent) for seat of the governor. This is a sort of intelligent voting in which they would like their vote to effective in terms of imparting bargaining power to one party with a reasonable weight.

It is also believed that a two-party state does strengthen the democratic practice by speeding up the democratic decision-making and increasing the bargaining power of the dominant party, which will otherwise would not be possible in a multiparty democracy in which no single party commands a significant majority.

It is also worth pointing out that in the event of Southern secession, two new single-party states will emerge from the ashes of Sudan’s fourth democratic era.

In the light of all this, the evolution of a true multiparty system in Sudan will have to wait longer than was initially advocated or hoped for.


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