Deby Wins Third Term as Opposition Cries Foul

Chadian President Idriss Deby (left) casts his vote in N'Djamena. (Photo: Issouf Sanogo / AFP-Getty Images)

Idriss Deby won Chad's presidential elections with a substantial majority, according to Chadian election officials, but opposition parties that boycotted the ballot have denounced the process as a sham.

According to provisional figures released by the Chadian national election commission late on Sunday, Deby received 77.6 percent of the vote in the May 3 elections, sealing his bid to extend his 15-year reign by another five years. And over 60 percent of Chad's 5.8 million registered voters cast their ballot, the commission said.

"Yesterday I was the candidate of my party. Today I am the candidate of all Chadians!" said Deby at a party in his private villa on Sunday night as soldiers fired gunshots into the air in celebration.

"This election refutes those who predicted the apocalypse for Chad. This proves that democracy can work," added Deby, to rapturous applause and shouts of support.

None of the other three challengers for the top-spot garnered more than 10 percent of the vote in the election, according to the election commission. The closest rival was former prime minister Kassire Coumakoye with 8.8 percent.

But opposition leaders dismissed Deby's victory as a fraud. Lol Mahamat Choua, head of an opposition coalition, said the elections were "fixed" and "do not reflect the reality" of what happened on voting day. "This is another reason why we decided to boycott these elections," he told IRIN.

A dawn attack on the capital by rebels opposed to Deby, only two weeks before polling day, left 200 dead. Opposition leaders, the African Union and the United States called on Deby to delay the polls until security could be guaranteed, but Deby pressed ahead and voting stations opened on the May 3 as planned.

Western diplomats, humanitarian workers and journalists in N'Djamena and Abeche contacted by IRIN on election day estimated turnout at a fraction of the official estimate — perhaps lower than 10 percent — and said most war-weary Chadians were either hunkered down at home fearing more rebel attacks or had fled the country.

Election monitoring was conducted by a handful of observers from African states invited by President Deby, who declared shortly afterwards that the proceedings were "free and fair." Final polling results will be announced by the constitutional council on May 28.

Chad's fractured civil opposition spent the weeks ahead of the vote urging Chadians to boycott the poll in favor of a national dialogue, and ultimately refused to field any candidates.

Come election day, three former or standing ministers in his own government and one representative of a minority socialist party provided the only challenge to Deby's candidacy.

Idriss Deby

1990: Led a coup that ousted President Hissein Habre.

1993: Named interim president of a transitional government.

1996: Elected president in Chad's first-ever multiparty presidential election.

2001: Re-elected amid allegations of fraud by his opponents.

See also, "Civil War Looms Ahead of Elections" and "Idriss Deby, a President Under Siege."

In 2003, Chad became an oil-producing country.

Deby supporters reeling away from Sunday night's festivities said they were happy with the result.

One 30-year-old supporter named Moubarack, said: "You see, we were told that the rebels were going to come, that the population was not going to come out to vote, but the turn out was 61 percent, which is excellent."

However, for Abdelsalam Mahdi, the election commission's decision signifies nothing more than "wasted money" that would have been better spent on improving standards of living. Chadians are the fifth poorest people in the world, according to the United Nations.

"I'm really sad that the election commission has given this result," said Mahdi, fingering prayer beads as he walked away from Monday morning prayers in central N'Djamena.

"It wasn't really worth having these elections — they might just as well have saved the money by getting together and deciding the result between themselves. It would have been the same thing anyway." © IRIN

[This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.]