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Presidential election in Chad: facing Déby Itno, the opposition wants to unite

The atmosphere is tense in N’Djamena as April 11 approaches, the day when the Chadians will vote to choose a president. On Saturday, the police dispersed manu militari several demonstrations by opposition parties which had previously been banned and, on Monday, fourteen opponents arrested that day were jailed and will be tried in particular for “disturbing public order”. In addition, Succès Masra, leader of the Les Transformateurs party and one of the most vocal opponents of the regime of President Bédy Itno, as well as ten of his supporters, took refuge on Saturday in the forecourt of the United States Embassy. to escape the police. Five of them, including Succès Masra, were still, Monday evening, “in the security perimeter” of the American representation, but they did not “formally request political asylum”, told AFP a representative of the embassy. Their objective: to prevent Idriss Déby Itno, the outgoing president, from running for a sixth term. After these last days of tensions in the streets of the capital which will soon host the G5 Sahel summit, the opposition has organized itself more officially.

Théophile Bebzoune Bongoro, new leader of the opposition

Result: fifteen opposition parties appointed, Tuesday, a single candidate for the presidential election, facing the incumbent Idriss Déby Itno, in power for 30 years and invested by his party, the Patriotic Movement of Salvation (MPS) to run for a sixth term. This is Théophile Bebzoune Bongoro, 55, a neophyte in politics, chosen by the leaders of the fifteen movements, to everyone’s surprise, by nine votes against five for the favorite and the most famous opponent to Idriss Déby Itno, Saleh Kebzabo . These parties, meeting for the occasion in N’Djamena, had created on February 2 a coalition, the Alliance Victoire, and promised to nominate a single candidate and a single program against the outgoing head of state. “We want power to be transferred democratically through the ballot box,” declared Théophile Bongoro after his appointment. “This is neither a merger, nor a grouping of parties, nor a coalition of parties, but an electoral alliance called Alliance Victoire. By adhering to this manifesto, each signatory party renounces presenting an individual candidate for the presidential election, ”declared the twelve signatories, including Saleh Kebzabo and Mahamat Ahmat Alabo, two opposition leaders.

Théophile Bongoro, a notary who has never participated in any election, created in 2018 his own political movement, the Party for Rally and Equity in Chad (PRET). Saleh Kebzabo came second in the 2016 presidential election with 12.8% of the vote. “The democratic process of this election has just taken place at the level of the opposition, at the level of the Alliance Victoire. We take note of it and we continue, ”he told AFP.

Idriss Déby right in his boots

Saturday, Idriss Déby Itno was invested as a candidate for his own succession. This career soldier, recently promoted to Marshal by the National Assembly which the MPS largely dominates, has ruled Chad with an iron fist and without sharing since he took power by arms in 1990 by overthrowing Hissène Habré with the support from France. Idriss Déby, 68, is considered by the great powers as an essential ally in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel and a stabilizing element in the region, while his country is surrounded by states as failed as Libya, the Central African Republic or Sudan. The Chadian army provides the UN peacekeepers in Mali with one of their main contingents and is considered the most seasoned of the participants in the G5 Sahel joint force (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad). “If the emotion of being invested as a candidate for a presidential election is still strong, that which I feel today has a more grandiose scope”, declared Idriss Déby Itno, in front of the militants of his party, the MPS. “Allow me, my brothers and sisters, to tell you that it is after a ripe and deep introspection that I decided to respond favorably to this call, this call of the people”, he continued, after having was nominated candidate by acclamation by the members of his party. During his inauguration speech, he declared that he wanted “to stem terrorism and insecurity in order to allow our country to continue its march on the path of emergence”. Always reelected in the first round, the Chadian president is accused of electoral fraud by the opposition.

The opposition union not yet effective

However, as in the last elections, the opposition will not be completely sided with Théophile Bongoro, since Romadoumngar Nialbé Félix, president of the Union for Renewal and Democracy (URD), the main opposition force in the National Assembly with eight deputies, was recently invested by his party to be a candidate. Alladoum Djarma Balthazar for the Chadian Socialist Action Party for Renewal (ASTRE), and Djimasngar Nasra, head of the Un nouveau jour movement, both new to politics, are also candidates. And the movement of Laokein Kourayo Medar, which came in third place in 2016, just like The Transformers of the young opponent Succès Masra, did not join the Alliance Victoire. Applications must be officially submitted from February 13. The April presidential election will be followed by legislative elections, set for October 24, 2021, after having been postponed many times since 2015.

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