Chad’s military leader Itno declared president as results contested by rival

Chad’s military leader Itno declared president as results contested by rival

Chad’s military leader, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, has been declared the winner of this week’s presidential election, according to provisional results that have been contested by his main rival, the prime minister, Succès Masra.

The national agency that manages Chad’s election released results of Monday’s vote weeks earlier than planned. The figures showed Itno won with 61% of the vote, and Masra fell far behind in second, on 18.5%. Gunfire erupted in the capital, N’Djamena, after the announcement, though it was unclear if it was celebratory.

Preliminary results had not been expected until 21 May. Analysts had widely expected Itno to win the long delayed presidential election after three years of military rule. Itno seized power after his father, who spent three decades in power, was killed fighting rebels in 2021.

The oil-exporting country of nearly 18 million people has not had a free-and-fair transfer of power since it became independent in 1960 after decades of French colonial rule.

Hours before Thursday’s announcement, Masra published a speech on Facebook accusing the authorities of planning to manipulate the outcome.

During the 11-minute speech, Masra appeared at a podium alongside the national flag and claimed victory, saying the incumbent was planning to reverse the outcome of the vote. He called on Chad’s military, police and other security forces to stop following Itno’s orders.

“These orders will lead you to side with the wrong side of Chad’s history. These orders will lead you to fight your brothers and sisters. These orders will lead you to commit the irreparable and unforgivable,” he said. “Refuse to obey these unjust orders!”

There was no immediate response from the president’s office.

After the results were announced, military and civilian supporters took to the streets on foot and motorcycles, and in cars, honking horns and waving flags.

“We heard there was a [high] turnout, which shows that people are really aware and that they were mature enough to participate in [the vote],” said Adoum Mohamed, a resident in N’Djamena.

Masra, the president of the Transformers opposition party, fled Chad in October 2022. The country’s military government at the time suspended his party and six others in a clampdown on protests against Itno’s decision to extend his time in power by two more years. More than 60 people were killed in the protests, which the government described as “an attempted coup”.

An agreement between the country’s minister of reconciliation and Masra’s political party late last year allowed the exiled politician and other opposition figures to return to Chad. He was later appointed prime minister.

Chad is seen by the US and France as one of the last remaining stable allies in the vast Sahel region, after military coups in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in recent years. The ruling juntas in all three countries have expelled French forces and turned to Russia’s mercenary units for security assistance instead.