Opposition leaders on Thursday urged their supporters to boycott the poll and called for fresh protests against Deby’s sixth term bid.
“There are those who say a sixth term is too much, I say they’re wrong,” Deby, 68, told a rally in the capital, N’Djamena.
“I’m confident we’re going to win.”
A former military officer, Deby came to power spearheading the rebellion that overthrew longtime military ruler Hissene Habre in 1990. He won elections in 1996 and again in 2001 before pushing through a constitutional change in 2018 that could allow him to stay in power until 2033.
“I cannot participate in a poll where the outcome is already known,” said Saleh Kebzabo, the runner-up in the 2016 presidential poll,
Kebzabo and opposition leader Ngarlejy Yorongar pulled out of the race after a violent arrest attempt of another candidate, Yaya Dillo, in late February. The United Nations has called for an investigation after security forces went to arrest Dillo, a former minister in Deby’s government. Dillo and other witnesses said security forces killed the politician’s mother and son and wounded several others. The government has said Dillo’s son was not killed in the raid.
Protests against Deby’s adm inistration have mounted since February with a coalition of NGOs, labour unions and opposition political parties calling for a change in political leadership and an end to social and economic injustices. Authorities have “ruthlessly” responded with crackdowns on protesters, Human Rights Watch said in a report this week.
According to Aljazeera, late on Thursday, the government said it had arrested several opposition politicians accused of planning “terrorist attacks” against the electoral commission’s headquarters and the ransacking of polling stations.
Chad, despite being a major oil producer, is the third poorest country in the world, according to the UN’s humanitarian development index. It has been hit hard by multiple oil price crashes since 2014, which has led to rising debt levels.
Protesters are calling for access to education, healthcare and electricity.
Albert Pahimi Padacke, a former prime minister and one of the candidates in Sunday’s election, said a boycott would only result in “an easy victory” for Deby.
“It’s better to push for change through the ballots,” Padacke said by phone from his southern hometown of Pala, near the Cameroonian border.
Fearing a low voter turnout, supporters of Deby’s ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement are mobilising to try to convince Chadians to pick up their voter cards and vote.
Meanwhile, Kebzabo, the candidate boycotting the vote, pledged to maintain pressure on Deby to step down.
“A sixth mandate is too much, we have to speak up and we will continue to do so.”