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Chad – Expert Briefing by Daniel Eizenga

  • Chad is a semi-presidential republic where the president serves as head of state and the prime minister heads the government
  • The current constitution, promulgated following a popular referendum in 1996, provides for multi-party presidential and legislative elections.
  • Presidential term limits were originally set at two five-year terms, but this was repealed following a constitutional amendment in 2005
  • Biometric voter registration was scheduled for 2013, but did not take place until late 2015 due to a lack of funding
  • Municipal elections scheduled for 2014 and legislative elections scheduled for 2015 have been indefinitely postponed
  • A presidential election is scheduled for the end of April 2016
  • Follow the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag – #TCHAD
Idriss Déby Ituo - Photo credit - Marion Urban

Idriss Déby Ituo – Photo credit – Marion Urban

Chad has suffered from political violence and instability since independence from France in 1960. During the 1960s numerous rebel groups in the northern regions joined together to create the Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad (FROLINAT). The creation of FROLINAT marked the beginning of a civil war which lasted nearly thirty years. During that time, Chad experienced a series of military coups and rebel takeovers. These ended in 1990 when the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, mobilised a rebel force from western Sudan and seized control of the country, deposing Hissène Habré as president.

After taking power, Déby’s Mouvement Patriotique du Salut (MPS) transformed itself into a political party. Déby and the MPS oversaw a transition from the single-party rule to a multi-party system. The first multi-party presidential election in Chad’s history was held on 2 June 1996 with a second round run-off held on 3 July 1996. Déby defeated Wadel Abdelkader Kamougué in the second round with nearly 70% of the vote. In the subsequent presidential elections – held in 2001, 2006, and 2011 – Déby won an outright majority in the first round, negating the need for a run-off.

The MPS has won a majority of the seats at the National Assembly in each of the three legislative elections held under the 1996 constitution. The current National Assembly has 188 seats, of which the MPS won 117 in the most recent legislative election in 2011. Parties aligned to the MPS form presidential majority, which holds 155 seats.

Déby eliminated presidential term limits from the constitution in 2005 following a popular referendum. The political opposition contested the results of the referendum and boycotted the presidential election held in 2006. During the next presidential election in 2011, the most notable opposition leaders again boycotted the poll.

Despite the transition to a multi-party system, Chad continues to suffer from political violence and instability. Over the last two decades, rebel and terrorist groups have challenged the government, creating areas of insecurity within the country. Rebel groups reached the capital city of N’Djamena in 2006 and 2008, but were forced to retreat following confrontations with the national military.

Following the failed rebellion of 2008, the United Nations added a peacekeeping force to an already established civilian mission in eastern and southern Chad. The Chadian government then held several negotiations with the rebel groups and the Sudanese government which had been providing a safe haven for the rebel groups. After the negotiations, the national military integrated most rebel forces following an agreement between Chad and Sudan.

This provided a degree of stability, however, some rebel groups continue to contest Déby’s authority. Recently, a small rebel group based in southern Libya, the Conseil National de Redressement du Tchad (CNR), called on its supporters to join in armed rebellion to prevent Déby from winning the 2016 presidential election.

While the CNR poses a limited threat to the stability of the country, terrorist organisations, notably Boko Haram, have caused significant insecurity in parts of Chad and more broadly in the region prior to the 2016 election. Several Boko Haram attacks on villages in the Lake Chad region led president Déby to enforce a state of emergency in the region. Boko Haram has also claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in N’Djamena, making security during the electoral period a cause for concern.

Administering the first nation-wide biometric voter registration drive, which Déby promised during his 2011 campaign, also remains problematic. The biometric census is intended to increase the overall transparency of elections. It was implemented at the end of 2015, two years behind schedule, and consequently, municipal elections (originally scheduled for 2014) and legislative elections (originally scheduled for early 2015) were postponed until the census could be completed. Both legislative and municipal elections are scheduled to take place after the presidential election slated for April 2016.

However, the political opposition has contested the way in which registration has been conducted by the national electoral commission. Leaders of the opposition cite several irregularities during the census, arguing that the results are not reliable. They claim that a number of ineligible voters have been included on the electoral roll, while the authorities have excluded other eligible voters.

If the presidential election is not delayed to allow for registration to be conducted to the satisfaction of the opposition, some candidates may again boycott the presidential elections. Others, resigned to the fact that elections will take place regardless, are trying to form coalitions of disparate parties in an effort to beat Déby at the ballot box.

In other cases, civil society organisations are attempting to create movements aimed at dissuading Déby from standing for another term. Trop C’est Trop (Enough Is Enough) and IYINA (We’re Fed Up) are two civil society movements mobilising supporters for a turnover in power in 2016. Despite the efforts of these movements, Déby appears set to contest the April election, and it seems unlikely that a serious challenge to his authority will emerge beforehand.

Daniel Eizenga is a research associate with the Sahel Research Group and a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Florida. He tweets @eizengadan