Presidential election in Chad: for Succès Masra, a disillusioning tomorrow

The invitation cards for the ceremony to announce the final results have already been posted

Presidential election in Chad: for Succès Masra, a disillusioning tomorrow

The invitation cards for the ceremony to announce the final results have already been posted. In N'Djamena, no one doubts that the Constitutional Council will validate, Thursday, May 16, the victory of Mahamat Idriss Déby in the first round of the presidential election, three years after he was hoisted by a group of generals on the chair of his late father, outside any legal framework.

This legitimization of hereditary power through the ballot box will be particularly difficult to swallow for his main rival, Succès Masra. The opponent, who became prime minister in January, disputes the results and claims 73% of the vote in the May 6 vote, according to his own count. “Don’t let your destiny be stolen from you! ", he said on May 9, calling on his supporters to "peaceful mobilization" in a video broadcast live on social networks just moments before the announcement of the provisional results, which gave Mahamat Idriss Déby the winner with a little more by 61% of the vote.

But the big evening did not take place, because an impressive military force was deployed at the same time in the main cities of the country. “Tanks and pick-ups equipped with 12.7mm machine guns invaded the streets, it looked like a coup d’état atmosphere,” says a foreign observer who is familiar with Chad. The security minister explained that it was a “preventative” device.

As soon as the results were announced, the din of weapons of war tore through the night and continued until early morning, despite the ban issued by the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces. Certainly “excessive” “fire of joy”, concedes the Minister of Communication, Abderaman Koulamallah, “but which must be understood because the military are very attached to their president, who is also a general”. The NGO Human Rights Watch and the European Union (EU) did not hesitate to describe it as post-election violence.

Exit door

Shooting for joy or intimidation, Hassan Baba Abazen doesn't care. Because for him, the result is the same. On May 9 at around 9:40 p.m., an explosive projectile went through the roof of his house, killing his wife and seriously injuring his three children. “I went out and told them to stay safe inside. When I returned, their bodies had holes everywhere,” he relates, with a blank look, alone in the middle of his devastated living room with walls riddled with impacts, holding a shard of metal in his hands.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Le Monde at least ten deaths and several dozen injured in the capital alone. There are also victims in the Cameroonian town of Kousseri, on the other side of the border, opposite N’Djamena. By a circular, the Chadian Ministry of Health first prohibited hospitals from providing information to journalists on the results of this election night in the name of protecting "medical confidentiality", before backtracking by promising assessments daily workers… who are always waiting.

In the southern districts of the capital, known to be favorable to the opposition and which house the home of Succès Masra, these shootings were perceived as a form of intimidation. “The message was clear: at the slightest movement, they were ready to provoke a new “Black Thursday””, relates a member of the Transformers, the Prime Minister’s party, in reference to the repression of October 20, 2022; between 73 and 300 demonstrators who came out to demand the departure of the military in power were killed. “We did not call for demonstrations to avoid further bloodshed,” says Sitack Yombatina Béni, vice-president of the party.

But failing to be able to play its last card, that of mobilization in the street, Succès Masra finds itself out of the game and cornered. All that remains for the Transformers are legal avenues of protest, without much hope, certainly, but which at least give them time to think about an honorable way out. On Sunday, Succès Masra himself came to submit his appeal file to the Constitutional Council, chaired by Jean-Bernard Padaré, former spokesperson for Déby Sr.'s party.

In the request, his lawyers document, in a jumble, refusals of access to polling stations or counting operations, the absence of electoral lists in certain offices, ballot boxes taken away by soldiers or even the arrest of 79 Transformers activists on the sidelines of the vote. “In view of all these irregularities, we demand the pure and simple cancellation of the vote,” says Sitack Yombatina Béni. In vain it seems, because this Thursday journalists are invited by the Constitutional Council to “proclaim the final results of the presidential election”. The only surprise could therefore only come from the final scores of each candidate.

“Sledgehammer blow”

Coming third with almost 17%, Albert Pahimi Padacké trails Succès Masra by only a hundred thousand votes. The former prime minister also filed an appeal before the Constitutional Council to request the partial annulment of the vote, particularly in the three provinces where the current head of government garnered the most votes, on the grounds that he would have used the colors of the national flag in his campaign, which is prohibited by the electoral code. If the Council grants his request, he could move into second place.

“Such a situation would be a real political blow for Masra,” observes Remadji Hoinathy, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). He was certainly impressed by his own campaign, but once the disappointment has passed, he will have to find another way to exist politically. Especially since by trying to go it alone, he has created strong enemies in the ranks of the traditional opposition. »

The executives of his party had time to think about the future, holed up in the Transformers HQ, surrounded by defense and security forces for three days. “We must now focus on developing the territorial base of the party in view of the next legislative elections,” explains one of them. It was our first participation in elections and we started very strong, now we have to see how to transform the test. »

The reflection promises to be more complicated for the person of Succès Masra, who, by engaging in a standoff at the top of the State, has annihilated his chances of retaining his position as prime minister, obtained thanks to a political agreement that it is now no longer in a position to renegotiate. “Its room for maneuver is very narrow but it exists,” puts Remadji Hoinathy into perspective. Because the power, which risks taking a clear authoritarian turn, will necessarily need to have an opponent, if only to maintain unity in its ranks and a semblance of democratic appearance. »