Chad ruler’s charge to vote triumph faces surprise rivalThu, 02 May 2024 02:34:56 GMT

General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, proclaimed head of state by Chad’s army three years ago, is the favourite to win Monday’s presidential election after the junta violently repressed much of the opposition.But in an unprecedented scenario for Chad, Succes Masra, once a fierce opponent of the Deby dynasty who then allied with them and was recently appointed prime minister, is clouding the outlook by attracting large crowds.Two theories are circulating about what is going on in the African nation of 18 million people.One is that Masra’s candidacy for president is just a show to provide a democratic fig leaf for a vote Deby will easily win.The other is that Masra has been galvanised by the crowds and now considers himself a genuine opponent. That could even push Deby into a run-off and convince junta to stuff ballot boxes.”The hypothesis, at the beginning, was that he was going to go along with Deby with the result all decided in advance, but Masra is now thinking there will be a Diomaye Faye in Chad,” said Kelma Manatouma, professor of political science at the University of N’Djamena. Faye was the surprise victor of Senegal’s March presidential election.But lawmaker Rakhis Ahmat Saleh, a presidential candidate invalidated by Chad’s Constitutional Council along with nine others, said: “Masra is a follower, he is raising the stakes simply to ensure his place after Deby’s election.”  Masra told AFP in an interview this week he would win the election but would keep a “place” at his side for general Deby.- Same slogan as his father -In the capital N’Djamena, the only posters on view are those of MIDI, the acronym of Mahamat Deby, predicting a “first round knockout” — the same slogan used by his father who officially won 80 percent in the first round in 2021.The few remaining opposition groups have called for a boycott of the vote, which they say is intended to establish a Deby dynasty.France maintains 1,000 troops in Chad, seen as a pillar in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region, especially after Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger expelled French troops from following military coups.The army appointed Mahamat transitional president on April 20, 2021, following the death of his father, Idriss Deby Itno, who was killed by rebels after ruling Chad with an iron fist for 30 years.Mahamat promised an 18-month transition to democracy, but then extended it by two years.On October 20, 2022, the army and police opened fire on opposition demonstrators, in particular The Transformers, Masra’s party. At least 300 young people died according to international NGOs, or about 50 according to the regime.   A thousand others were sent to the Koro Toro desert penal colony. Some died en route or were later executed, according to NGOs.- ‘Dining with executioners’ -The main opposition leaders, mostly now in exile, accuse Masra of betrayal and forgetting the victims from his own party in exchange for the PM’s role.”We were behind him, up to being deported to Koro Toro because of him, but then he came to dine with our executioners,” said Judicael Noubarassem, a 36-year-old truck driver, in the capital’s Amtoukoui district.Then on February 28, Yaya Dillo, a cousin of Mahamat Deby and his fiercest rival in the election, was killed in an army assault, “murdered” with a “point-blank bullet to the head”, according to his party.”Deby has behind him a record of 30 years of chaotic governance, with all economic and social indicators in the red,” said Chad expert Remadji Hoinathy.”It is difficult to see how he could prevail in the first round without forcing his hand at the ballot box.”In that case, the cheating “will be too blatant and we risk falling back into events similar to those of October 20, 2022,” said Ladiba Gandeu, professor of sociology at the University of N’Djamena.The eight other candidates, who are either not very hostile to the regime or are little known, are not expected to pick up much of the vote.  The results are expected on May 21, with the possible second round on June 22.yas-dwi-lnf-gir/hpn/gv/bp/mca