Chad’s opposition says Deby jumping the gun on presidential campaigning

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Opposition candidates are accusing Chad’s military ruler, General Mahamat Idriss Deby, of flouting election rules and launching his campaign before the official starting date of April 14.

Deby, the transitional president who seized power after the death of his father in 2021, is attempting to cement his rule with a victory in Chad’s presidential election on May 6.

The general said on state TV Wednesday that if elected as Chad’s president, he will maintain peace and develop the central African state, adding that he would fight what he called endemic poverty by creating jobs and funding youth agricultural projects.

Several hundred people, a majority from Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement party, applauded as he told them that more than 200 opposition political parties and about 1,000 civil society groups have agreed to support him.

Deby encouraged them to immediately begin campaigning for him.

Lydie Beassemda, a presidential candidate of The Party for Democracy and Full Independence of Chad, accused Deby of disrespecting Chad’s electoral code by launching his campaign early.

April 14 is the date set by Chad’s Constitutional Council for campaigning to begin.

Beassemda said nine opposition challengers notified the National Agency for the Management of Elections that Deby launched campaigning early. The agency said it is examining several complaints from opposition candidates but provided no details.

Beassemda urged Chad’s 8 million registered voters not to be intimidated by Deby, who wants to continue the role of his father, Idriss Deby Itno.

The 37-year-old Deby was proclaimed head of an army junta after rebels killed his father in 2021 after more than 30 years in power. The presidential election in May is meant to be a transition back to democracy.

Deby initially promised an 18-month transition period after he seized power. He later appointed himself as the head of a transitional government. Opposition parties say he uses the military to suppress the opposition.

Opposition candidates urged Chadians to be vigilant and report suspected election malpractices to the National Agency for the Management of Elections. They also called for the international community to take note that Deby is not respecting democratic norms by campaigning before the official start date.

The nine candidates challenging Deby in the election, including pro-democracy figure Success Masra, who now serves as transitional prime minister, say Deby does not want to lose his family’s grip on power.

Deby says he will respect the verdict of the ballot and hand over power if he is defeated.

The Constitutional Council set the first round of voting for May 6 and the second round for June 22.

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