Chad’s President Idriss Deby has cast his ballot in a poll boycotted by the main opposition parties. The other contenders are mostly government allies – meaning a third term in office looks inevitable for the ex-army chief who seized control of the former French colony in 1990. His supporters present him as a guarantor of stability against the spillover of conflict from the violence-torn Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.But critics say his rule has become increasingly corrupt and dictatorial. One opposition leader, Kamougue Abderkoder, accused the president of setting up a system guaranteed to secure him victory. “We can’t call that elections anymore,” he said.
“That is why we have refused to participate in these elections, this time.” Accusations of vote-rigging are nothing new in Chad, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Claims of fraud overshadowed both of Deby’s previous electoral wins in 1996 and 2001. Today’s poll is taking place just three weeks after the capital came under attack in efforts to overthrow the president. The coup attempt was defeated but a rebel threat to disrupt today’s ballot means the army remains on high alert.