Chad’s veteran leader Idriss Deby has won a fifth term in office, the national electoral commission announced, extending his 26 years in power, as the opposition alleged widespread fraud.
Taking more than 60 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential polls, Deby came far ahead of main opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo, who won just over 12 percent but said the vote was rigged.
We “don’t recognise the outcome of this electoral stick-up”, a group of opposition politicians including Kebzabo said, alleging ballot-stuffing and the buying-up of voter cards.
“Hundreds of ballot boxes have disappeared,” the group said, adding that soldiers who had intended to vote against Deby had also “disappeared”, alleging they had likely been “arrested and imprisoned”.
African Union observers last week declared the elections free and fair.
The organisation’s rotating presidency is currently held by Deby.
On Thursday, supporters from Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party celebrated by firing guns and automatic rifles into the air in the capital’s vast Nation square.
During the day, ahead of the results announcement, there was a strong military presence on the streets of the capital.
More than six million people had been asked to choose between 13 presidential hopefuls in the vote, with turnout pegged at more than 71 percent.
During the polls there was an online blackout with the Internet cut and mobile phones unable to send messages.
A camera crew for French-language broadcaster TV5 that had been covering scuffles between soldiers and young opposition activists over alleged ballot box stuffing had their camera roughly taken away by security forces and the footage erased.
Earlier this month, four civil society leaders were handed four-month suspended sentences for urging anti-government protests ahead of the vote.
The government had banned demonstrations after protests erupted in February over the gang rape of a teenage girl blamed on the sons of top figures in Deby’s regime.
Four days after the ban, a student was killed and five wounded when police opened fire to break up a protest at Faya Largeau in the north.
Deby’s election also came as staff at several hospitals, schools and universities were on strike over weeks of wage arrears.
Under Deby — who took power in a military coup — once unstable Chad has become both an oil producer and a key player in the fight against jihadist groups on the rampage in west Africa.
But despite a wealth of new oil resources since 2003, half of the population of 13 million lives below the poverty line and seven out of 10 people cannot read or write.