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Elections can spare Sudan from divisions

Two dates this year changed the political scene in Sudan. The first was Jan. 1, when four Sudanese blocs agreed to form a civic movement called the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC). The second date was April 11, when military leaders took a risk and ousted the tyrant President Omar Al-Bashir after three decades of rule.

These two dates made the two sides partners, without which perhaps it would not have been possible to achieve this historic change in a peaceful manner. Until April 11, the goal was obvious and unanimous: Ousting Al-Bashir. But since then, the situation has been characterized by division and complexity.

Of course, transitions are arduous. This is neither surprising nor strange in the case of revolutions. That is why everyone hopes that Sudan’s “ship of change” reaches the port safely. This requires wisdom and insight, concerns the people of Sudan first and foremost, and affects regional stability.

One party dominated the state and society, and uprooting it will not prove to be a smooth process for a few years. Indeed, the agreement between the two sides was merely to effect change, but thereafter there has been no clear, agreed-upon roadmap.

Following the recent confrontation with protesters, the Transitional Military Council (TMC) said it will hold elections within nine months so “the people of Sudan can decide who should rule,” instead of its previous proposition to hold elections after two or three years. But the civilian powers in the street continue to refuse the idea of elections in the current stage, preferring to form a transitional government in which they occupy the majority of seats.

Who is behind the steering wheel in Sudan today? There are two powers: The TMC, whose hierarchy and leadership have become known, and the AFC, which is hard to identify, at least for those who observe from afar. The AFC is a large bloc that includes most of the civilian political powers in Sudan, and seems cohesive for now.
It comprises four political groups with collective leaderships. We do not yet know how decisions are made within this diverse camp of longstanding and new national powers, which represents a wide spectrum, from the far left to the far right.

The first group is the Sudanese Professionals Association, which represents the likes of professors, physicians, lawyers and engineers. The second is the National Consensus Forces (NCF), which comprises 17 opposition parties that refused to cooperate with Al-Bashir’s regime.

The third is Nidaa Al-Sudan (Sudan’s Call), the product of a meeting held in Addis Ababa in 2014 that included partisan forces such as the National Umma Party, the Communist Party, the NCF, the Sudan Liberation Movement, the Justice and Equality Movement, the Ba’ath Party, the Nasserites and others. The fourth group is the Unionist Alliance, which comprises eight unionist parties.

The AFC is therefore a large bloc made up of partisan, allied and competing parties. It could win elections by a large majority if they were held early next year. Elections will spare Sudan the divisions that have begun to appear and are expected to increase with time. Besides, it is difficult to bet on a military-civilian understanding, or a consensus within the AFC.

An interim government may not be the ideal solution because it means collective leadership, which rarely succeeds in transitional stages, especially when the partners are diverse. There is no doubt that both sides, military and civilian, have concerns.

Each is worried about the other because the Sudanese and regional experiences are not encouraging. The AFC fears that the TMC will take full control and behave like Al-Bashir, while the TMC fears that if it follows the AFC, the latter will lead Sudan to chaos.

In an ideal scenario, the solution may be a civilian government while the army vows to protect the state and its institutions, and implement the constitution. But this scenario may have to be decided through elections, as it will not be achieved by a consensus that is difficult to guarantee and will lead to trouble if it fails.