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Chad presidential election: Junta chief Deby declared winner

May 10, 2024

His father ruled Chad for a generation and now Mahamat Deby Itno has consolidated the family dynasty with victory in the presidential election.

Chadian interim President Mahamat Deby Itno casts his ballot, in N'djamena, Chad on May 6, 2024
Mahamat Deby Itno has consolidated the family dynasty with his victory in the presidential election announced on ThursdayImage: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty Images

Chad's military leader, Mahamat Deby Itno, was declared the winner of the May 6 presidential elections in polls widely denounced as neither free nor fair.

His victory extends decades of Deby family rule in a country seen as crucial to the fight against armed Islamic groups across Africa's vast Sahel region.

The national election management agency, known as ANGE, said on Thursday that provisional results showed Deby had won with 61.3% of the vote. This is far ahead of his closest rival, Prime Minister Succes Masra, who gained 18.5% of the vote.

The country's Constitutional Council still needs to confirm Deby's victory, which is comfortably over the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

Following the announcement, military units were deployed on the streets of the capital N'Djamena and other major cities for security reasons, according to dpa news agency.

The long-delayed election followed three years of military rule. A career soldier, Deby — also known as Mahamat Idriss Deby — was proclaimed transitional president by army generals after the 2021 death of his father who spent three decades in power.

Chadians go to the polls in hopes of ending military rule

Deby's win expected

Most analysts saw the election outcome as a foregone conclusion in the Central African nation of nearly 18 million people.

"This result will only come as a surprise to anyone who hasn't understood the political game that has been played since the transition," said human rights activist Jean-Bosco Manga, referring to the transition period since Mahamat Deby inherited the presidency.

Deby's win by "an overwhelming majority is expected," said Remadji Hoinathy, a Chad-based senior researcher for the Institute for Security Studies, a pan-African think tank.

The opposition has seen violent repression, including the killing of Deby's main election rival, his cousin Yaya Dillo Djerou, in February. Yaya Dillo's party say their leader was shot point-blank in the head in an army assault and call his death an assassination.

Deby's has also stacked of the two main electoral bodies with those faithful to him and his MPS party.

"Right from the start of the [election] process, the way in which [ANGE] was set up with political actors affiliated to the one they have declared president meant other candidates had no chance," Hoinathy told DW.

ANGE has also been widely criticized for allowing officials to publish regional vote tallies rather than posting results at individual polling stations, making it impossible for observers to verify the results.

As for the Constitutional Council, which validates candidacies and results, it "offers little guarantee of independence, as the younger Deby has appointed a former MPS executive ... at its helm," write Enrica Picco and Charles Bouëssel in a briefing for the International Crisis Group, an Africa-based think tank.

Earlier this week, the European Union also condemned Chad's failure to allow nearly 3,000 civil society members financed by the EU to observe the presidential election.

Chad elections unlikely to be free and fair: Niagalé Bagayoko, African Security Sector Network

Fears for violence

Hours ahead of the election agency's announcement, Succes Masra published a speech on Facebook accusing authorities of planning to manipulate the outcome.

Although a strong opposition figure in the past, Masra lost much of his popularity when he returned from exile and accepted the post of prime minister in January.

"A significant proportion of his constituency now considers him to have become a stooge of those in power," write Picco and Bouëssel.

In his speech, Masra called on Chad's military, police and other security forces to refuse to obey unjust orders. He also called for protests on Friday.

Analyst Hoinathy is worried that Chadians lack of faith in the election outcome could trigger violence such as that seen in October 2022 when the military and police shot at peaceful protesters. About 50 people were killed, according to official figures, while the opposition put the death toll at about 300.

"We find ourselves in a situation where there could be a face-off between the street and the forces of law and order, which could once again end in bloodshed," Hoinathy said.

"Today, the only way out of this situation is through serious mediation. And it is important that all the players involved with Chad in this transition understand that the time has come for them to play a very crucial role in avoiding a bloody situation in Chad once again."

Blaise Dariustone in Chad's capital N'Djamena contributed to this article.

Edited by: Keith Walker

Kate Hairsine Australian-born journalist and senior editor who mainly focuses on Africa.