No surprises predicted for Chad poll

Chad voters go to the polls on Monday for a presidential ballot with incumbent Idriss Déby Itno all but guaranteed a win after a boycott by his three main rivals.

“As far as I am concerned, there is no election,” said Saleh Kebzabo, president of the National Union for Democracy and Renewal — one of the parties boycotting the vote claiming that unfair conditions caused Déby’s Patriotic Movement of Salvation (MPS) to crush them in a February parliamentary poll.

The new elections would be a “historic fraud”, the politician said, following on February’s “electoral masquerade” in which the MPS won an absolute majority with 113 of the 188 seats in Parliament against a fragmented and underfunded opposition of more than 100 tiny parties.

Kebzabo’s party is the biggest in the opposition, with nine seats in the National Assembly, followed by Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue’s Union for Renewal and Democracy with seven, and Ngarlejy Yorongar’s Federation Action for the Republic, with four.

The three men withdrew from the race and called for a general boycott, having demanded electoral reforms in the Central African country, including the issuing of new voters’ cards.

Déby, seeking a fourth term, has been in power since 1990 after unseating dictator Hissene Habre in a coup.

“President Déby will get through on the first round … it is a certainty,” MPS secretary general Haroun Kabadi said ahead of the poll.

“For now, I don’t think that there is another party that is any competition to the MPS.”

Two other candidates from smaller parties remain in the race: Albert Pahimi Padacke and Nadji Madou.

According to Gilbert Moundonodji, a law professor at the University of N’Djamena, there will be two trends to watch: the voter participation rate, given the boycott call, and the president’s score in the south of the country, where he is unpopular but where his opponents have lost influence.

“They [the opposition] haven’t offered an alternative,” he said — pointing out this was their second presidential election boycott.

The previous stayaway, in 2006, resulted in the signing of an agreement in 2007 between the MPS and the opposition, under the auspices of the European Union, for the democratisation of the electoral process.

Kabadi said the opposition withdrew “when they realised that the system was not in their favour”.

But Abderaman Djasnabaille, president of the committee overseeing the accord, said the current state of affairs “is a failure for all of us: the opposition, the majority and the partners”.

About 4,8-million of Chad’s 11,1-million citizens are eligible to vote.

Sandwiched between volatile neighbours Niger and Sudan, Chad is one of Africa’s poorest countries, suffering from poverty and internal conflict despite abundant resources of uranium and gold.

It also became an oil producer in 2003 following the completion of a $4-billion pipeline linking its oilfields to depots on the Atlantic coast. – AFP

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