Ongoing political reforms in the East African country of Sudan are set to shift the political landscape of the region in historic proportions.
Exchanging views with visiting American journalists in Khartoum, Vice President of Party Affairs of the ruling National Congress Party, Engr. Ibrahim M. Hamid, outlined measures to change the political environment in a country eager to warm up its relationship with Washington and the international community.
“We started rebuilding our party in 2014 with a laser focus on intra-party democracy based on strict rules and regulations”, the veteran political leader told his guests.
Among the important changes is the restriction of office holders to two-term limits. The imposition of term limits, according to Engr. Hamid, includes occupants of both government and party leadership positions.
In acknowledging the historic nature of the reform, Hamid remarked that the ruling party embraced this change to rewrite the political future of a region notorious for seat-tight leaders where political figures are forced out of office either by death or citizen uprising. It is believed that the political reforms taking place in a region that witnessed the Arab Spring could be a strategic move to broaden the political space for more participation and transparency.
Engr. Hamid insisted that going forward, at least 50% of its leadership must be composed of new leaders at all times thereby paving the way for youths and women to join the political process. “Now we have 60% new leaders and at least 30% are women. Even in the parliament 30% are women in the central government in Khartoum and in all 18 States of the country”, he stated.
The Vice President of Party Affairs noted that while Sudan inherited the British political system, the country is headed to a hybrid of British and American systems that promote impartiality and periodic leadership changes respectively.
In his view, the ongoing reforms aim to separate government and State because as he put it “the State belongs to all Sudanese with strategic interests of all citizens; state is not formed by leaders of the parties but citizens”. As part of the reform agenda, political parties are being encouraged to promote internal democracy by holding conventions to elect party leaders to minimize the temptation of some parties sliding to mere personal properties of strongmen likely to resort to ethnic loyalties.
In the election of 2015, said Hamid, “we had as much participation of all parties as possible – 104 political parties with the exception of two Dafur’s SPLM, and the Communist Party, we formed the government under the law that every party must have 5% support of voters. However, we changed the law to zero per cent to allow others that fall short of that mark to join the political process.
As ambitious as the political reforms in Sudan might be helpful in encouraging political inclusion and pluralism, the country faces the prospect of a dominant one-party state with potential consequences of groupthink and absence of opposition.