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Chad opposition petitions court to cancel presidential election results

FILE - A poll worker holds a ballot during ballot counting at a polling station during the presidential election in N'Djamena, Chad

FILE - A poll worker holds a ballot during ballot counting at a polling station during the presidential election in N'Djamena, Chad

Opposition candidates in Chad who lost the recent presidential election have filed paperwork challenging President Mahamat Idriss Deby’s victory.

The legal challenge comes as the media there appeal a decision barring them from reporting on election-related violence. State television reported on Monday that the country's Constitutional Council received a petition from opposition candidate Succes Masra, calling for results of the May 6 vote to be annulled.

The central African state’s elections management body, or ANGE, declared Masra second with more than 18 per cent of the votes cast. Deby, the transitional president, won more than 61 per cent of the vote, exceeding the 50 per cent mandate needed to avoid a runoff.

Deby’s victory follows the death of his father, Idriss Deby, in 2021 and completes the country’s three-year transition from military to civilian rule. Masra and the Transformers party he leads allege massive electoral fraud, including the stuffing of ballot boxes and soldiers chasing opposition representatives from polling stations.

Masra alleges that soldiers carried ballot boxes to military barracks, where government troops counted and declared results, instead of ANGE. The Transformers say scores of opposition officials and hundreds of Masra supporters were arrested and detained by government troops.

Chad's military government says Deby won the election and some opposition parties want to create chaos by not respecting the vote. Deby calls the allegations unfounded. Sitack Yombatina Beni, the Transformers’ vice president, spoke Monday with VOA via a messaging app from Chadian capital N'djamena.

Beni said Masra has asked civilians to maintain peace and avoid reacting violently to ongoing provocations from Deby's supporters. He said it is an open secret that rights and freedoms are abused in Chad, but that this time civilians, opposition and civil society are ready to fight back if the Constitutional Council fails to render justice and give back what he calls Masra's stolen victory.

Beni said peaceful demonstrations were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday in several areas, including N'djamena and Moundou, Chad's second-largest city.

Yacine Abdramane Sakine, another losing candidate, said he also filed a petition asking the Constitutional Council to order ANGE to do a public recount of the votes.

Evarist Ngarlem Tolde, a political affairs lecturer and researcher at the University of N’djamena in Chad, said the fact that Chad’s military leaders ordered government troops to undemocratically vote for Deby is an indication they are not ready to lose their grip on power.

He added that it is surprising that Chad's elections management body published provisional results at 8 p.m. May 9 after it had announced at 2 p.m. that it was very difficult for the body to assemble result sheets from more than 26,000 polling stations.

Tolde said it will be very difficult for the Constitutional Council to cancel provisional results of the May 6 presidential elections declared by ANGE. Both institutions were formed by Deby. ANGE says it is independent and that the results published are free, transparent, and credible, reflecting the verdict of the ballot.

Civil society and opposition groups say the troops deployed after the May 9 publication of partial results are still intimidating and arresting civilians, especially in N'djamena. They say the death toll from shooting since May 9 has increased to 30.

On Monday, Chad’s journalism union condemned a government order that stops the news media from reporting on post-election tensions and violence and orders news organizations to desist from giving casualty figures.

The Constitutional Council has until May 21 to rule on the petitions and proclaim definitive results. But Chad's transitional officials report that Deby already has been congratulated by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, Guinea Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Kenyan President William Ruto.

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