Appeasing the Opposition and the Politics of Bread

A little under two weeks ago, I wrote that with the economic crisis and ongoing protests in Sudan that:

The regime has a choice of how to weaken, but not to avoid weakening. It can try to maintain some control by ceding some power to the internal opposition, hoping to quell rioting, or it can risk a complete collapse by defending the periphery while continuing to fight in the center as well.

The regime seems now to have made a choice. I has chosen to cede some power to the internal opposition. According to an article in the Sudan Tribune, the regime is seeking “alternation of power.” I am not sure if what is implied is an alteration of the current standing of the minority parties or a true alternation of power with the National Congress Party NCP at some point not being in charge. I cannot at this point envision the latter as being a primary option at this point for the regime.

It is not insignificant that in addition to discussing changes in the distribution of power that the regime is strengthening discussion of creating an new Islamic constitution. This was discussed in March and caused discord among the opposition because the Popular Congress Party PCP is in favor of it along with the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, but the National Consensus Forces NCF saw it for what it is, a way to splinter the opposition so that the regime can maintain power. The PCP at the time backed down when the NCF accused the regime of:

Forging an alliance with “religious fanatics” in order to prolong its rule of “tyranny”.

Al-Turabi, as leader of the PCP, has distanced himself and his party from these discussions, but clearly this is a carrot being offered by the NCP in an attempt to split the internal opposition. The question is whether or not it will be accepted.

Meanwhile, Sudan is now facing both a bread shortage and significant inflation of food prices. People are now having to stand in long lines for bread in Khartoum. The regime reversed a decision to lift subsidies on wheat which would have immediately increased the cost of wheat by over 50%, something recommended by the minister of finance in order avoid economic catastrophe.

The regime is facing calamity and has very few options left with which to stave it off. It simply cannot continue to fund the military and police to the extent it has been doing so while its people starve, but neither can it continue to subsidize the cost of food substantially.  The fact that the regime has chosen not to be fiscally responsible out of fear of strengthening the rebellion will lead to a downgrading of its credit and a diminishing ability to address financial concerns going forward. Sudan is heading for a cliff with a deteriorating ability to turn away.

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