Yesterday Chad held parliamentary elections, a critical step before presidential elections in April:
Chad’s first parliamentary election in eight years went ahead smoothly on Sunday despite some delays in voting, observers said of a poll that will test President Idriss Deby’s grip on the oil-producing African state.
The vote pits Deby’s ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), which currently has a strong majority in parliament, against candidates from the main opposition coalition CPDC.
The run-up to the poll had been fraught with the CPDC securing the sacking of the election commission chief, accused of fraudulently adding eight people to the parliamentary candidate list at Deby’s behest.
The EU and Chad’s National Independent Electoral Commission stated that the elections went fairly smoothly. Officials said results may start trickling in today but that final numbers will take longer to tally. Regardless of how the opposition performs, some argue that the opposition’s participation was already meaningful:
Opposition parties including the main Federation Action for the Republic (FAR) boycotted a presidential election in 2006 that re-elected Deby, who seized power in a 1990 coup.
While it was too early to forecast results, the opposition’s participation was in itself a positive sign and gave it a chance to reposition itself in the electoral game without having to resort to a boycott, observers said.
“Everyone has something to win. A greater presence of the opposition (in the Assembly) will only increase the credibility” of Deby, Saleh Kebzabo, the deputy secretary general of the CPDC, an umbrella group of opposition parties, told AFP.
During its absence from the political landscape, the opposition in 2007 signed an agreement under the auspices of the European Union that officially paved the way for a democratic process.
If you want to learn more about the political situation in Chad, International Crisis Group has a report on Chad from summer 2010 that assesses the pre-election climate.
With the referendum in Sudan, the Central African Republic’s recently concluded presidential election, and upcoming elections in Nigeria and Cameroon, Chad and its neighbors are seeing a lot of political contestation this year. So far these events have not displaced incumbents from office, but the votes continue to shape relations between rulers and electorates. In some cases (Sudan’s referendum) the results have decreased countries’ internal tensions, but in others disappointed groups may strongly object to the outcomes. We’ll see what happens in Chad as the results of these elections become available and as the country head towards April’s contest.