Mahamat Déby's win solidifies Déby family's hold over Chad amid election controversy

FILE PHOTO: Chadian interim President Mahamat Idriss Deby speaks during the launch of his presidential campaign ahead of the May elections in N'Djamena, Chad April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Israel Matene/File Photo

The declaration of Chad's military ruler, Mahamat Déby as the winner of the May 6 presidential elections cements his position of power and extends the Déby family's rule over the nation.

Mahamat Déby, who took the reins of leadership following his father, Idriss Déby Itno's death in April 2021, won the presidential poll with 61.3% of the vote. The provisional results announced by the state's election body placed his closest rival, Prime Minister Succes Masra, at 18.53%.

The announcement came amid claims of victory by Prime Minister Masra, who had asserted a "resounding victory" in the first round of voting in a live broadcast on Facebook. Masra's call for mobilisation against what he termed as an attempt by General Déby to "steal the victory from the people" has added a layer of controversy to the election results.

"A small number of individuals believe they can make people believe that the election was won by the same system that has been ruling Chad for decades," he said. "To all Chadians who voted for change, who voted for me, I say: mobilise. Do it calmly, with a spirit of peace."

Chad's journey to this election has been thunderous as the military seized power in recent years. The election further marks the first attempt to restore civilian rule in West and Central African countries where military coups have been prevalent.

Irregularities during the elections

The election process was not without its challenges. Reports of irregularities on polling day and the exclusion of ten politicians from the race due to "irregularities" have raised questions about the fairness of the elections. Moreover, the killing of Yaya Dillo, a cousin of General Déby and a potential opponent, by security forces in February cast a shadow over the electoral process.

Prime Minister Succes Masra, the main challenger to Mahamat Déby has claimed persistent violence and intimidation against him and his supporters. His party, The Transformers reported that their candidate's residence was under illegal drone surveillance while opposition and civil society groups have also accused the government of vote rigging and threats.

There were also reports of ballot box stuffing to favour Mahamat Déby. This was particularly noted by the Coalition of Moral Authorities for Mediation (CONAMM), which includes various societal leaders.

The election was further tainted by violence, including the death of a government soldier who allegedly attempted to stuff ballot boxes and was assaulted by voters. Additionally, a civilian was killed on election day in Moundou following a dispute at a polling station.

Post-election violence

Ahead of the May 6 elections, Crisis Group experts predicted that Chad could experience conflicts after elections. They cited the disqualification of 10 prominent candidates before the elections as a main factor.

"Post-election protests are possible, though the threat of police repression could dissuade many people from taking to the streets," they said.

Yet, amid the celebratory gunfire at a rally held by the junta leader's supporters on Thursday, May 9, numerous individuals sustained injuries. Sources affiliated with Amnesty International suggest that there may have been fatalities as well.

Reuters reported that the capital city, N'Djamena, echoed with gunfire on Thursday night following the state election agency's announcement of Déby's victory.

How Mahamat Déby took over Chad as a military ruler

Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, commonly known as Mahamat Déby, assumed power in Chad after the death of his father who had ruled the country for three decades. The transition of power took place under extraordinary circumstances.

On April 20, 2021, President Idriss Itno Déby was reportedly killed while visiting troops battling rebels in the north of Chad. Immediately after his father's death, Mahamat Déby, who was a four-star general at the time, was named interim president by a military council. This council also dissolved the government and parliament, announcing a transition period of 18 months.

The ascension of Mahamat Déby was met with controversy, as it was seen by many as a coup that bypassed the constitutional provisions for succession. The constitution stipulated that the Speaker of the National Assembly should take over in the event of the president's death but the military council justified their actions by citing security concerns

The international community expressed concern over the military takeover, urging a swift return to civilian rule and respect for the constitutional order Mahamat Déby later ran in the presidential elections, securing his position as the official leader of Chad.

You may be interested in