KHARTOUM – Agence France-Presse

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, center, takes part in the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union at UN Conference. AP photo.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has long been working to ensure next month's elections are rigged, making the eventual winner illegitimate, the International Crisis Group said on Tuesday.
"The legal environment for free and fair elections does not exist," Fouad Hikmat, the ICG's special adviser for Sudan, said in a statement from the Brussels-based think-tank. "The international community should acknowledge that whoever wins will lack legitimacy."
The ICG report accused Beshir's National Congress Party of "long-term plans to rig the elections" including by using manipulated results of a 2008 census to draw up electoral districts in its favor. In addition, it said, the NCP had "co-opted traditional leaders and bought tribal loyalties" everywhere in the African nation, but most notably in its war-torn western region of Darfur.
"Winning big in Darfur is central to the NCP's plan to capture enough votes in the north to ensure its continued national dominance," said the ICG statement. The report comes ahead of talks Wednesday on a possible poll boycott by opposition parties and the former southern rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the minority members of the NCP-led unity government. "If the SPLM refuses the elections, we will reject the (2011) referendum" on southern independence, al-Bashir said on Monday.
Beshir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur since March 2009. Observers believe the veteran leader is tenaciously holding on to power to legitimise himself inside Sudan and to gain more credibility from the international community. "The NCP will almost certainly win the presidential and legislative polls, but it will be up to governments and intergovernmental organisations to act to limit the damage," the IGG said.