Chad Expects Some 20 Candidates to Compete With Military Ruler in Elections

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Officials in Chad say close to 20 candidates will be challenging military ruler General Mahamat Idriss Deby in Chad’s May 6 presidential election. The final list of candidates for the polls expected to end three years of military rule in the central African state will be officially declared on March 24, according to Chad’s Constitutional Council.

Among the presidential hopefuls is Ndjelar Koumadji Mariam, president of the National Union for Alternation in Chad, the only female candidate.  

Mariam said she is committed to bringing social justice and ensuring parity between men and women as stated in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. She spoke to VOA by telephone from Chad’s capital N’djamena on Monday.

Mariam said she intends to fight widespread corruption that has plunged a majority of Chad’s close to 17 million people into abject poverty. If Chad’s resources are equally distributed, she said, several million hungry women and children will have food, water and basic humanitarian needs.  

Mariam said corruption breeds hatred and is responsible for the anger, proliferation of armed groups and killings in Chad. 

Opposition leader and pro-democracy figure Success Masra, who was appointed transitional prime minister in January, said he is the candidate of The Transformers, a party he heads.  

Masra told Chad’s state TV that he agreed to be a candidate to mend hearts and reunite Chad’s citizens. 

Transitional president General Mahamat Idriss Deby is the nominee of Chad’s former ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement, or MPS party, which says he has the support of a coalition of over 200 opposition parties and about 1,000 civil society groups. 

Mbaiodji Ghislain, secretary general of the Alliance of Chad Civil Society Groups, said civil society groups believe that if given the opportunity, Deby will continue bringing back peace, stability, security, national concord and development, as he has done since he took power three years ago after the death of his father. 

But candidates Nasra Djimasngar, national secretary of A New Day party, and Bruce Mbaimon of the Movement of Chad Patriots for the Republic say Deby is manipulating civil society groups to stay in office. The two men accuse Deby of stoking political tensions and allowing what they call persistent social injustices to degenerate into violent conflicts in Chad. 

Chad’s opposition and civil society groups say the elections will be taking place in a very difficult political context following the killing of opposition leader Yaya Dillo, who was the president of the opposition Socialist Party Without Borders and Deby’s cousin. 

Dillo was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces on February 28, according to Chad’s government. But opposition and civil society groups say Dillo was eliminated because he was widely viewed as a strong challenger to Deby.  

The MPS party denies Deby is responsible for the several crises Chad is facing and says the transitional president will hand over power if beaten in the polls. 

But opposition candidates say voters should be vigilant before, during and after the polls. They say voters should be ready to defend their votes and report fraud or irregularities for legal action. 

The central African state’s constitutional council says campaigning for the first round of the presidential election begins April 14 and ends May 4.  

Chad’s electoral commission says May 6 presidential polls will mark a return to constitutional order and the end of Deby’s transitional period, now in its third year. 

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