By Prince Kurupati
Sudan is set to have its third consecutive presidential election in 2020 and according to the supreme law of the land, the incumbent President Omar al-Bashir is not eligible to run for president as he has already served his maximum of two presidential terms (when he was elected in 2010 and 2015). However, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) had been angling to change that by amending the constitution, in the process, scraping the presidential term limits.
Early in December last year, members of the NCP and other opposition political parties represented in the Sudan parliament but having cordial relations with the ruling party decided to establish a parliamentary committee tasked with amending Sudan’s constitution to allow President Omar al-Bashir to run for another term. Among its objectives, the parliamentary committee aimed at raising a motion to change Article 58 of the constitution, which allows only two presidential terms.
However, despite what looked like a certainty (in terms of the constitution amendment, news broke out recently that the parliamentary committee has decided to abandon the plan to change the constitution and scrap the presidential term limits.
While there has been no official communication thus far from the parliamentary committee as to the reason/s they decided to abandon their plans, reports that have emerged suggest that the rise in daily street protests sparked by rising food prices and cash shortages, against Bashir’s nearly 30-year rule may have played a key role. The only ‘official’ communication given was given by the state news agency, SUNA which said that the parliamentary committee has abandoned plans to amend the constitution owing to “special emergency commitments.” SUNA did not, however, disclose much information on whether the committee will resume its plans in future or if it has decided to abandon the plans forever.
In early December last year, NCP parliamentary group chairman Abdul Rahman Mohamed Ali while addressing journalists said that “294 parliamentarians, representing 33 political parties, agreed to submit this proposal to the parliament Speaker in order to open up the presidential tenure, so we suggested the change to Article 58 of the constitution, which allows only two presidential terms.”
Giving reasons as to why they wanted to amend the constitution to keep President Omar-al-Bashir in power indefinitely, Abdul Rahman Mohamed Ali said: “We believe that the only person who can guarantee the stability of the country is President Bashir.”
Speaking after the decision to amend the constitution had been voted for by the majority of parliamentarians from his party, President Omar-al-Bashir expressed gratitude and was thankful for his party for trusting and keeping faith in him and his rule.
Apart from amending the constitution to pave way for the scrapping of the presidential term limits, the parliamentary committee according to Abdul Rahman Mohamed Ali also sought to “change Article 178, which gives the president the power to dismiss the governors of the states.”
Lacking in numbers, the opposition parliamentarians in the Sudan Parliament had resorted to boycotting House sessions in an effort to frustrate the ratification of the controversial elections law. Also, some opposition political parties had vowed to boycott the 2020 presidential election if Omar-al-Bashir competed.
Bashir, an Islamist and former army officer, came to power after a military coup. He won elections in 2010 and 2015 after changes in the constitution following a peace agreement with southern rebels, who then seceded to form South Sudan.