Chad main opposition figures barred as leaders cleared for election

The central African country’s presidential election is set to take place in May.

Authorities in Chad have cleared 10 candidates for this year’s long-awaited presidential election, barring two fierce opponents of the military government from standing.

Chad’s Constitutional Council announced on Sunday that outspoken opposition figures Nassour Ibrahim Neguy Koursami and Rakhis Ahmat Saleh would be barred.

It said their applications had been rejected because they included “irregularities”.

The council said that the nominations of interim President Mahamat Idriss Deby and the country’s recently-appointed Prime Minister Succes Masra had been accepted.

The central African nation is scheduled to hold the first round of a presidential election on May 6 and the second round on June 22, with provisional results on July 7.

The elections are part of a transition back to democracy from rule by Chad’s military government, which is one of several currently in power in West and Central Africa.

There have been eight coups in the region since 2020, sparking concerns of a democratic backslide.

It is the first time in Chad’s history that a president and a prime minister will face each other in a presidential poll.

Deby initially promised an 18-month transition to elections after he seized power in 2021, when his long-ruling father was killed in clashes with rebels.

But his government later adopted resolutions that postponed elections until 2024 and allowed him to run for president, triggering protests that were violently quelled by security forces.

In December, Chadians voted in favour of a new constitution that critics said could help cement Deby’s grip on power as it allowed him to run for the presidency.

Deby confirmed his intention to run earlier this month.

Masra, previously a staunch opponent of Chad’s military rulers, had fled the country after dozens were killed when security forces cracked down on demonstrations in the capital N’Djamena in October 2022.

He returned in November after a reconciliation agreement was signed that guaranteed him the ability to participate in political activities.

Several opposition parties have since distanced themselves from Masra.

Call for boycott

Wakit Tamma, another of the main opposition platforms in Chad, on Saturday called for a boycott of the presidential vote, denouncing it as a “masquerade” aimed at upholding a “dynastic dictatorship”.

The barring of the opposition candidates comes less than a month after General Deby’s main rival Yaya Dillo Djerou was shot dead in an army assault on his PSF party headquarters.

In early March, Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation into the murder of Dillo, arguing that the army assault “raises serious concerns about the environment for elections scheduled for May”.

Prime Minister Masra subsequently promised that his government would hold an international inquiry to determine responsibility for the death of the military government’s main opponent.

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