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Sudan’s Hamdok Is Back in Power, but With How Much?

Hamdok’s decision has been criticized by pro-democracy groups as a capitulation to the country’s coup leaders.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Sudanese leaders hold up documents.
Sudanese Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok hold up documents during a signing ceremony in Khartoum, Sudan, on Nov. 21. AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is reinstated following a coup, Chile’s presidential election heads for a runoff, and the world this week.

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Hamdok Returns as Sudanese Prime Minister

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is reinstated following a coup, Chile’s presidential election heads for a runoff, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Hamdok Returns as Sudanese Prime Minister

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been reinstated and thousands of political detainees are set to be released as Sudan’s military leaders attempt to present a more palatable image following an October coup that dissolved the previous power-sharing agreement.

Hamdok, who was immediately detained and put under house arrest in the Oct. 25 coup’s aftermath, said he made the decision to prevent further violence. He said he had been given free rein by the military to form a technocratic transitional government and elections would still be held “before July 2023.” Hamdok has been criticized by pro-democracy groups for agreeing to return to office.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), a political group instrumental in deposing former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, rejected the move. “We affirm our clear and previously declared position that there is no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy for the coup,” the group said in a statement. “We are not concerned with any agreements with this brute junta, and we are employing all peaceful and creative methods to bring it down.”

Coup leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan sought to ease international pressure in recent weeks by naming a new transitional council. The new body’s makeup, with Burhan as chair, retained military leadership among its 14 members but excluded members of the FFC.

Alden Young, a Sudan expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Hamdok’s return is a welcome sign that U.S. diplomatic efforts are paying dividends, but it is unlikely to satisfy wider calls for civilian rule. “It’s not a complete victory for the Sudanese street,” Young said. “I think it’s a realistic representation of the balance of force, particularly with the military showing it could make alliances with most of the major rebel groups.”

With thousands of people taking to Sudan’s streets on Sunday to protest Hamdok’s decision to work with Burhan, Sudan’s tensions are unlikely to ease soon. In the meantime, U.S. diplomatic efforts should expand, Young advises, targeting civilian grassroots groups that helped oust Bashir in the first place.

“The U.S. has to find ways to diplomatically deal with the resistance committees and talk to them directly,” Young said. “They’re the real advocates of democracy, and it requires new types of diplomacy to reach out to people in local organizing that we normally wouldn’t talk to.”

The World This Week

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce his nominee for chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve this week.

Monday, Nov. 22: Irene Khan, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, visits Hungary for a weeklong trip.

Canada’s parliament holds its first session since a snap election in September.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosts his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, in Moscow.

Tuesday, Nov. 23: Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to meet with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Rafael Grossi is expected to hold high-level talks with Iranian officials in Tehran.

Egypt hosts a leaders summit of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa nations.

Wednesday, Nov. 24: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits Morocco.

The IAEA Board of Governors meets in Vienna for a three-day summit.

Thursday, Nov. 25: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic visits Putin in Moscow.

Sunday, Nov. 28: Honduras holds presidential and parliamentary elections.

What We’re Following Today

Chile’s election. Chile’s presidential election is set to go to a second round on Dec. 19 after no candidate breached the 50 percent vote share threshold in Sunday’s first round. Even with some votes still to be counted, the runoff appears set for a showdown between José Antonio Kast, a right-wing former congressman whose style has been compared to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old left-wing congressman who made his name organizing student protests in 2011.

Venezuela’s election. The results of Venezuela’s local and regional elections are expected today following a nationwide vote on Sunday. The elections are the first time since 2017 that the country’s opposition parties have taken part following a boycott campaign. With opposition support fractured and turnout at around 42 percent, the four governorships not currently in the hands of the ruling United Socialist Party may yet change hands once results come in.

Keep an Eye On

China-Lithuania tensions. China has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania over the Eastern European country’s increasingly warm ties with Taiwan. The Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania opened last Thursday, and China already withdrew its ambassador when the move was announced in August. China will now not send its ambassador back to Lithuania and will keep diplomatic relations at a lower level. Writing in Foreign Policy in September, the Atlantic Councils Franklin D. Kramer and Hans Binnendijk explained why Chinas actions against Lithuania should serve as a “wake-up call” for Europe.

Libya’s election. Libyan interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has registered as a candidate in the country’s December presidential election, adding his name to a crowded field that includes Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, son of the country’s late dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi, and warlord Khalifa Haftar. Dbeibah’s entrance goes against Libya’s current electoral laws, and his candidacy has yet to be accepted by the national electoral commission.

Odds and Ends

As anyone who was watched My Octopus Teacher will tell you, there’s more to our eight-limbed friends than an ability to predict World Cup matches, with the creatures and their close relatives showing the kinds of complex thought usually seen in advanced mammal species. The British government recognized that on Friday by designating these wise cephalopods, along with lobsters and crabs, as sentient beings, citing complex central nervous systems and an ability to feel pain.

The move will not yet change the country’s fishing habits or impose new rules on restaurants, with the government saying the designation was only meant to “ensure animal welfare is well considered in future decision-making.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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