How Can Elections be Held in Darfur?
The US Institute of Peace has just published an important briefing on the question of how elections can be held in Darfur under the current circumstances. It points to the all the obvious difficulties: the lack of security in many areas, the fact that many Darfurians support unregistered opposition parties such as the SLM, the failure of the census enumerators to have access to significant populations including non-government held areas and many IDPs, the concerns held by many IDPs that if they register to vote in their current places of residence then they will be disenfranchised in their home areas (and perhaps by implication lose their residence rights) and the fact that in a single-member constituency system, dispersed IDP populations’ votes will be diluted and therefore that they will not be properly represented. This is a formidable list of reservations which imply that, without a peace agreement beforehand, elections in Darfur cannot be considered wholly free and fair.
What I find striking about the report is that despite all these obstacles and objections, “the majority of experts agreed that at least some elections must be held in Darfur.” This is because of the wider considerations of the nationwide transition to democracy under the CPA. Implicit in this conclusion is the argument that we cannot expect democracy to be achieved in a single giant leap, and small steps are better than no steps. They then go on to make a number of very sensible suggestions as to how best to achieve those small steps that are actually possible. They are practical, realistic and worth studying.