Voters in Chad go to the polls Sunday for elections expected to deliver a sixth term to longtime leader Idriss Déby. This after a campaign in which demonstrations were banned or dispersed.
Six candidates are running against the 68-year-old, who has been in power for more than three decades.
His nomination in February as the ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement’s candidate has sparked widespread demonstrations.
Marches calling for a peaceful transfer of power were banned, with any gatherings broken up by soldiers.
– RFI (@RFI) April 9, 2021
Hundreds of people were arrested and charged several with assault and disturbing public order.
Police and troops have reportedly surrounded the homes party headquarters of senior opposition leaders.
Analysts say the candidates still in the race carry little political weight.
Although 7.4 million people are eligible to vote, participation will be a major issue after members of the opposition withdrew from the race and called for a boycott.
Seven other candidates were rejected by the Supreme Court.
RFI’s reporters in the capital N’djamena said few people had tuned out in the early hours of voting, though there was a large military and police presence.
A group of young people looking to disrupt the vote were quickly dispersed with tear gas.
“I’m not going to vote,” a shopkeeper in the central market told RFI. “There is no real opposition.”
An unnamed ruling party official said a record voter abstention would be disastrous for the government.
Chad has struggled with poverty and instability since gaining independence from France in 1960.
It is a key ally in the West’s anti-jihadist campaign in the Sahel.
World Bank figures show some 42 percent of people live below the poverty line.