Sudan's ruling partners try to resolve on census results and elections

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By James Gatdet Dak

January 13, 2010 (JUBA) - The two major partners in the Sudan's Government of National Unity are discussing the possibility of increasing the number of national parliamentary seats for Southern Sudan as the deadline nears for submission of final lists bearing the names of candidates to the National Elections Commission.

Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan Riek Machar Teny of the SPLM (left), and Vice President of Sudan Ali Osman Taha (right) of the NCP, on Tuesday, January 12, in Khartoum This comes in the context of a rumoured electoral partnership being forged between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement and National Congress Party. The Presidential Assistant and Deputy NCP chairman Nafi Ali Nafi on Tuesday had indicated a possibility of his party forming an alliance for the elections with its peace and government partner, the SPLM.

The co-chairs of the Joint Executive Political committee between the two parties on Tuesday resumed dialogue in Khartoum to try to resolve the issue through possibly making an incremental increase in the number of seats for the South.

The Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan and Deputy Chairperson of the SPLM, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, traveled to Khartoum on Tuesday ahead of the SPLM Political Bureau's meeting on Thursday to meet with Vice President of Sudan Ali Osman Mohamed Taha.

South Sudan's ruling party, SPLM, may be looking for the extra national seats as a way of securing legislative reforms and protections for the conduct of the 2011 referendum for independence. In this vein, Nafi Ali Nafi stressed that the NCP's goal is to hold the elections, conclude the interim period and give Southerners the full freedom to decide in the self-determination referendum. He mentioned also, however, the need for a "strong campaign to stress the importance of unity and to warn of the disadvantages of secession."

Senior members of the National Congress Party confirmed the ongoing dialogue. Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir, Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairman of the party's Political Sector described the issues as complicated and the time as short time ahead of the deadline for nominations, according to the official Sudanese News Agency.

Al-Tahir said that the talks related to issues of concern to the SPLM, whereas the National Congress is concerned with the issue of the elections. He said that the National Congress did not give any concessions regarding the nominations at the level of South Sudan.

The talks are aiming to resolve a point of contention that arose as a result of the 2008 population census, which the South had rejected, arguing that it should not be used as the basis for allocating the share of power between North and South because it understated the region's population.

The census results, which officials said was poorly organized, put the population of Southern Sudan at eight million people, making it 21% of the country's overall population.

Southern Sudan leadership wants the region to maintain its 30% power sharing arrangement which was reached at in the 2005 peace deal that ended the 21 years of the recent North-South civil war.

The meeting also came as SPLM's final nominations of national candidates from all constituencies in Southern Sudan are being processed for submission to the National Elections Commission before the January 22, dateline.

Dr. Machar is also expected to discuss with the NCP partner the way forward for the upcoming general elections pending the final decision by the SPLM Political Bureau in its meeting scheduled to take place on Thursday.

The party's Secretary General Pagan Amum on Monday said the Political Bureau would declare the party's candidates for presidency in both national and Southern Sudan seats "if the party decides to contest" for such positions.

He called on the people of Southern Sudan in general and the SPLM members in particular to respect the final decision of the Political Bureau and maintain unity in the region.

SPLM is the only major political party in the Government of National Unity that has not yet declared its presidential candidates for the post-war elections.

NCP has declared the incumbent President Al-Bashir as its candidate for the April 2010 elections.

Some of the other northern political opposition parties that allied with the SPLM during the Juba Conference last year, such as Popular Congress Party and UMMA Reform Party, have already declared their respective presidential candidates, throwing into question their initial alliance with the SPLM. (ST)