Voting ended Thursday in Sudan’s elections, with a low turnout despite a one-day extension.
“Vote for who, vote for what?” said Ihab Shareef, 40, a former civil servant who now drives a taxi. “It would have been better if the elections money was spent on hospitals.”
President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for more than 25 years, is expected to win amid widespread apathy and a call for a boycott by opposition groups. Final results are to be announced April 27.
Fifteen other largely unknown candidates ran for president. Forty-four parties officially participated in the elections, which began Monday, for seats in the National Assembly and local legislatures.
Western groups had criticized the Sudanese government for holding elections during a time of violent conflicts and political unrest.
Regional groups including the African Union, the Arab League and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development sent observers.
A woman cast her ballot on Monday in Izba, an impoverished neighborhood on the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan. Many expect the current president to win.
The African Union said shortcomings in the elections highlighted “that Sudan still faces serious challenges to democracy-building and national reconciliation.”
Some civil society groups criticized the union’s decision to send a monitoring team, and the Sudan Democracy First Group, an umbrella organization, urged it this week in a statement not to “legitimize a process aimed at prolonging the government of Sudan’s continued political, human rights and humanitarian abuses.”
The African Union stated last month in a report that “the necessary conditions and environment for the holding of transparent, competitive and credible elections” had not been satisfied but decided to send observers anyway, led by Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president.
“It is important that the A.U. must remain in contact and sees the process with the government and people of Sudan,” he said. “If A.U. does anything to break that contact it will not go well.”
Voters were sparse on Thursday in the Wad Nubawi neighborhood of the city of Omdurman, where large antigovernment protests took place in 2013 and some protesters were killed.
“I don’t know anyone who went to vote,” said Ibrahim Hassan, 35, who is from the neighborhood and participated in the protests. “Even the ones who went to vote did not want to be seen.”
Ammar Ibrahim, 30, a bank teller from the neighborhood, said he cast his vote for the governing National Congress Party.
“I came to put in my word,” he said. “It is weakness from the opposition to call for a boycott.”
Activists asserted that up to 20 people who had urged the boycott had disappeared, though the government denied any politically motivated arrests.
A prominent columnist, Faisal Muhammad Salih, described the elections as a “political disgrace” with two possibilities. “The National Congress Party could assess this election politically and look at a real national dialogue,” he said. “Or it could just go on the same path, which will deepen the political crisis.”