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Chad votes for president today; military rule ending 



Chad’s transitional Prime Minister and Les Transformateurs party presidential candidate Succes Masra (C) shows his finger dipped in indelible ink as he votes at the Bureau de vote numéro 1 polling station in Carre 30, Abena Area in N’Djamena, on May 6, 2024 during Chad’s presidential election. (Photo by Joris Bolomey / AFP)

Chadians began voting for a president on Monday in an election purportedly aimed at ending military rule but dismissed by opponents of junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby as a fix following violent repression.

Voters will choose whether to extend decades of Deby family rule in one of the world’s poorest countries, a crucial territory in the fight against jihadism across the Sahel desert region.

They have the chance to opt instead for Deby’s own prime minister, Succes Masra, denounced as a stooge by critics in the absence of any other serious challengers.

At his closing election rally on Friday, Deby promised a “knockout in the first round”.

Masra also vowed to win without a run-off, telling supporters: “For the first time, Chad will be yours, Chadians.”

International human rights groups have warned the election will not be free or fair as Deby’s main rival has been killed and others banned from standing.

– Military rule –

Generals named Deby transition leader in 2021 when his father, longtime president Idriss Deby Itno, was killed in a gun battle with rebels after 30 years in power.

Known by his initials as MIDI, and “the Man in Dark Glasses”, Mahamat promised an 18-month transition to democracy, but later extended it by two years.

Opposition figures have since fled, been silenced or joined forces with Deby, while the junta has eliminated any attempts by civil society to campaign against it.

On October 20, 2022, the army and police opened fire on demonstrators protesting the transition extension, including members of Masra’s party, the Transformers.

At least 300 young people died according to international NGOs, or about 50 according to the regime.

Deby’s cousin and chief election rival Yaya Dillo Djerou was shot point-blank in the head in an army assault on February 28, according to his party.

Masra was among the opponents driven out of the country but later returned and was named prime minister in January.

The eight other candidates, either little known or considered not hostile to the regime, are not expected to win many votes.

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