An old-fashioned African political victory: Sudan's Bashir reelected with 94.5% of the vote!

Because the Sudanese electoral commission is barely independent, effectively Bashir was counting his own votes.

SUDANESE President Omar al-Bashir was reelected on Monday with 94.5% of the vote in polls he had been widely expected to win, the National Electoral Commission said.

The victory, in a vote boycotted by the main opposition, enables Bashir to extend his quarter-century rule over the North African nation.

“The number of votes obtained by candidate Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir of the National Congress Party was 5,252,478, or 94.5%” of ballots cast, NEC chief Mokhtar al-Asam said at a news conference in Khartoum.

Turnout was 46.4%, higher than the 30% to 35% estimated by an African Union observer mission.

Sudan’s vote, originally scheduled for April 13-15, was extended a day to allow the largest possible electorate, according to officials. 

Bashir was widely expected to win after the main opposition parties declined to field candidates, leaving more than a dozen little-known figures to compete. 

The U.S., U.K. and Norway last week criticised the vote, saying Sudan’s government had failed to “create a free, fair and conducive elections environment.” 

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of East African and Horn of Africa nations, said on April 17 that polling was “conducted in uniformity with international benchmarks for free, fair and credible elections.” 

Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity during Sudan’s decade-long Darfur conflict, took power in a 1989 coup. He won a 2010 presidential election, the reliability of which was questioned by international observers.

Bashir’s huge margin is one that was common in Africa of the 1980s and early 1990s and still happens only in a handful of countries, mostly near-one-party states, as political spaces have opened and electoral competition has intensified.

In Namibia, where the ruling liberation party SWAPO towers over the country’s politics, in December its candidate Hage Geingob won with a whopping  86%, but still  below 90%.

One of the few African leaders to outperform Bashir was Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi who bagged a controversial reported 99% of the vote in the country’s 2010 election.

Meles died in August 2012.

But other countries ruled by seemingly overbearing former liberation movements are not able to pull off that feat.

In May South Africa president Jacob Zuma’s African National Congress (ANC) notched up 62.2% of the vote, down from the 65.8% it got in 2009.

In another country long-led by a freedom movement party, Mozambique, last year ruling party Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi won with 59%.

In Nigeria’s historic election last month, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari garnered 53.95% of the vote, with President Goodluck Jonathan picking up 44.96%.

In Zambia’s special January election, ruling party candidate Edgar Lungu won with a hair breadth’s margin, clinching 48.3% of the vote, with his closest rival, Hakainde Hichilema, breathing down his neck with 46.7%.

Beside being gifted by an opposition boycott, the Bashir campaigned benefitted from resorting to some old time-tested methods – harassing key opponents and making it all but impossible for them to mount a credible challenge. And, because the Sudanese electoral commission is barely independent, effectively Bashir was counting his own votes.

But it is still a sign of progress that even Bashir needed some sort of election, to claim the legitimacy to lead the country.

-Additional reporting by Bloomberg.

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