The Obama administration has strongly supported Sudan’s national elections, but it’s hard to gauge exactly what the administration expects of them. Amid mounting evidence of fraud, and as opposition parties withdraw candidates and threaten boycotts, the question of how the world will respond to the election’s results becomes crucial. Unfortunately, comments from the Obama administration reflect anything but clarity on what standard the elections should meet.
Watch this video of some of the administration’s more baffling statements on the elections:
Two alarming conclusions can be drawn from this rundown of the administration’s comments:
First, the Obama administration is all over the map on what standard it expects from these elections. While comments are usually carefully hedged to prioritize the 2011 self-determination referendum as the priority for US policy towards Sudan, it’s difficult to assess what the administration thinks it is actually going to accomplish as a result of pushing the elections forward, given the current reality on the ground.
Second, the administration almost always characterizes the credibility of these elections in relative terms only. By calling for an election that is “as free and fair as possible” without clearly defining the minimum standards that need to be met, the US government is sending an implicit message to Khartoum that it can manipulate these elections and still secure international legitimacy for the results. At times, the government has specified reforms that must be enacted or rights that must be upheld as part of a credible process, but as the event draws near without significant progress, it is increasingly clear that Khartoum believes that the Obama administration will endorse a rigged election.