Chad Announces May 6 Presidential Election, Months Earlier Than Projected

Yaounde, Cameroon — Chad’s electoral commission made a surprise announcement Tuesday that a presidential election to end three years of military rule will take place May 6, several months earlier than planned.

The election will mark a return to constitutional order and the end of General Mahamat Idriss Deby’s transitional period in the Central African country, the commission said.

The 37-year-old Deby became leader of Chad’s Transitional Military Council in April 2021 after his father, Idriss Deby Itno, died while fighting northern rebels. The rebels said they wanted to end the older Deby’s 31-year rule.

The younger Deby took over and promised to head an 18-month transitional council, but in October 2022, he dissolved the council and declared himself interim president.

It is not yet known how many candidates will run in the May 6 polls. But last month, Chad’s former ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement party, or MPS, said that Deby will be the party’s nominee.

A group of some 127 opposition leaders met Monday, a day before the elections date was disclosed, to select a candidate. They, too, decided to support Deby.

Takilal Ndolassem, president of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Chad, took part in Monday’s meeting and spoke to VOA by phone from N’djamena. He said Deby has maintained peace in Chad by disarming rebel groups and providing basic needs, including water, education, food and jobs, to millions of suffering people.

Not all opposition leaders support Deby. Gilbert Ratou Barka, president of Artisans for a New Chad, or ARNT, has declared he will run in the May 6 election.

On Wednesday, Chad’s state TV reported that Deby was on a tour of eight of Chad’s 23 provinces, including Logone-Occidental, Logone-Oriental, Mandoul, Mayo-Kebbi-Est and Mayo-Kebbi-Ouest. The report did not give a reason for his visits.

Barka accused Deby of campaigning before official campaigns are launched.

Campaigning for the first round of the presidential election is scheduled to begin April 14 and end May 4. Barka said ARNT wants Deby to respect the electoral calendar and stop what he called an illegal campaign.

Deby had not visited civilians since the food crisis, rebel attacks on communities, floods and other humanitarian disasters within the past three months, Barka said.

By visiting now, Deby is manipulating civilians to maintain his grip on power, Barka said.

Deby, in a message broadcast on Chad’s state TV Wednesday, said elections will be free, fair and transparent.

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