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An Embarrassing Crackdown in Sudan

Obama's Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, just issued a statement criticizing Khartoum for brazenly arresting leaders of the political opposition on Monday, during a demonstration against the government’s flawed election laws. It was a move that evoked Iran’s ongoing crackdown on its own dissidents. The difference, of course, is that the United States is sponsoring the upcoming April 2010 elections in Sudan and is thus on the hook to show that they're reasonably legitimate. (The voter-registration period ended this week.) Gration has spent the past month or so insisting that, while the elections won't be perfect, they'll be reasonably fair and serve as good "practice" for the procedures needed to manage the referendum on South Sudan's secession. (That vote will happen--and perhaps spark a war--in 2011.) So it's a huge public embarrassment for us that Khartoum appears to be dispensing with the pretense that the rapidly approaching elections will be free and fair.

Indeed, if anything, it looks like Sudan’s government is getting "practice" at employing mass arrests, proxy violence, and intimidation.