The Sudanese National Election Commission (NEC) has officially cleared 15 candidates to contest next April's presidential and general elections.
The 14 candidates, who will contest against incumbent President Omar Al-Bashir, are little known except Prof. Fatima Abdul Mahmud.
Mahmud, who in the 2010 elections stood as candidate for the Sudanese Socialist Union, a party formed by late president Ja'afar Mohamed Nimeiri, 1969-1985, is herself a veteran politician.
But observers believe her chances of winning are very slim, as the party -- known to be behind the introduction of the September 1983 laws that imposed the Islamic Sharia laws with harsh implementation of flogging and amputation of limps in case of theft -- has little public support and its membership is aging.
Another female candidate, al Taazi, a former police and security officer, notwithstanding her claims that she would win the race, is also expected to be easily brushed away by Bashir.
The other candidates, little known even among seasoned journalists, have even slimmer chances of winning.
The NEC has also announced that 23 political parties will take part in the presidential and legislative elections but none of the major political parties, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), is putting forward presidential candidates.
And with the two major parties, Umma and DUP, suffering major fragmentations, there is enough reasons to believe that President Bashir will come out winner, serving a third term as elected president, 2004-2011, 2011-2015, 2015-2020.
Bashir took power in a bloodless coup d'état in June 1989. Since then, he has seen little serious challenge to his grip on power.
Although his party, the National Congress Party (NCP), has seen two serious splits, in 2009, and in 2013, it remains the most powerful of the over 90 political parties in the country.
Most of them are splinter groups from Umma and DUP or parties formed by rebel movements from Darfur that converted into political parties after signing a peace agreement with the central government in Khartoum.
Speaking at a press conference held at the NEC premises here on Tuesday, NEC Chairman Mukhtar al-Asum said the 23 political parties have presented their nominations to the Presidency and the national and states' parliaments.
He said 15 out of 18 candidates were approved by the NEC to contest the presidency, explaining that three other nominees were excluded for failing to fulfill the conditions.
The candidates for the National Assembly and the legislative councils of the country's 18 states totalled 8,748 persons, including independent candidates, said Asum.
He said the NEC would receive objections against candidates as of next Saturday and would go through the process of examining the injunction and taking decisions of acceptance or rejection of candidacies by 4 February.
The NEC Chairman said the voting process would start on 13 April.
Aside from the powerful position of the NCP and its full control of key institutions, including the army, the security and the economy, many observers believe that serious chaos marring the change of power in neighboring countries - such as Egypt, Libya, and to some extent, Tunisia - could spur voters into choosing Bashir.
Bashir, despite painful economic, trade and technology sanctions by the American since 1997, and a civil strife in Darfur since 2003, has managed to form a strong alliance with China and Russia.
Only this week, the Chinese ambassador to the Sudan, Li lianhe, told a ceremony marking inauguration of a new presidential palace in Khartoum that "China gives Sudan relations priority, among Arab and African countries", drawing a rapturous applause from the hundreds of senior officials and dignitaries attending the ceremony.
Although the European Union has so far shown little enthusiasm to fund or send observers, the NEC says the African Union, the Arab league and the African Centre for Human Rights are among the regional organizations that have expressed desire to monitor the process, a request that has been granted.
'We will conduct free, fair and credible elections that will be match international standards," the deputy chairman of the Commission, Dr. Jalal Eddin Mohamed Ahmed, a university professor, stressed. "But as usual, easier said than done, voting will tell."