Continuity and Change in Chad as Idriss Deby Wins Re-election

In a widely anticipated development, Chadian President Idriss Deby yesterday “won a fourth five-year term in office with 89 percent of the vote in April elections boycotted by the main opposition.” Analysts say his re-election will bring both continuity and change to the central African nation.

Deby‘s career resembles that of some other leaders in the region like Sudan’s Omar al Bashir and Burkina Faso’s Blaise Compaore. He took power in 1990

after toppling Chadian President Hissene Habre – with the help of the French secret service.

A shrewd tactician, Mr Deby had been President Habre’s chief-of-staff, leading a series of victories over rebel forces in the 1980s and earning a reputation for courage and military prowess.

After six years in office, Mr Deby set up Chad’s first multi-party political system and won elections that year.

He was re-elected in 2001, and again in 2006 after amending the constitution, which had previously limited the president to two terms in office.

This year has seen massive triumphs not only for Deby, but also for the ruling Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS). The MPS performed well in February’s parliamentary elections, winning around 113 or 114 of 175 seats. Some of the remaining 13 seats, contested in by-elections on Friday, may go to the MPS as well.

The opposition finds itself in a weak position. A boycott of the presidential elections did not stop Deby from claiming victory, and the death of major opposition leader Abdelkader Wadal Kamougue may leave the opposition further weakened. There is a discrepancy between the turnout figures given by Deby’s spokesman and the figures given by AU observers, but it seems Deby will not face serious challenges to his continued rule.

Alongside continuity, though, there are some changes. At Making Sense of Sudan, Celeste Hicks writes that while Deby’s domestic strength and the opposition’s political weakness have remained, Chad’s position has shifted somewhat overall:

In many ways, Chad has come a long way since the last presidential election held in 2006. Back then, President Deby’s decision to change the constitution to allow him to stand for a third term poured fuel onto the flames of a rebellion already burning in the east. Egged on by Sudanese arms and support, these rebels crossed a thousand kilometres of desert in a few days and attacked the capital N’Djamena just weeks before the election was held. Two years later, and with a new acronym and a variation in members and leadership, the rebels were back and came within moments of unseating Deby. The resulting crackdown on anyone believed to be involved in the rebellion poisoned the political scene in Chad and caused legislative elections to be postponed several times.

But those elections did take place in February 2011, and although there was widespread criticism of the electoral body the CENI, it remains significant that they, and March’s presidential election, took place in a period of relative stability.

The reason for this dramatic improvement in security seems in large part due to last year’s rapprochement between Chad and Sudan.

Hicks ends with speculation that Chad could generate its own protest movement, perhaps similar to Burkina Faso’s. Whatever the case, Deby is slated to continue ruling for the foreseeable future, perhaps in a more stable atmosphere than ever before.

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