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Tensions Rise in Chad Capital Before Controversial Polls


A day before elections in Chad, tension is mounting amid fears of violence and possible attacks on polling stations, following a rebel threat to disrupt the election. But the government says the poll will be secure.

Residents in N'Djamena went out early, packing onto the capital's main boulevard, hoping to stock up on essential provisions before Wednesday's presidential poll.

The U.S. embassy has warned its citizens in Chad to stay indoors on election day. Other diplomatic missions in N'Djamena have issued similar alerts. And many residents of the capital are returning to their homes.

Rumors of a possible attack by the United Front for Change rebel movement have circulated for the past week. The rebels led a raid on N'Djamena less than three weeks ago in an attempt to topple President Idriss Deby before the polls.

That attack was repelled by Chadian security forces with the help of the French army. Government forces have been re-inforced in N'Djamena, but rebel leaders have vowed to stop the election from taking place.

President Deby pushed through a referendum last year to allow him to run for a third term. A coalition of the country's main opposition parties boycotted the referendum and dispute the results, which appeared to show a large majority of Chadians in favor of changing the constitution's presidential term limit.

Last year, the U.N. Development Program published a report questioning the composition of voter lists used in the referendum. Those same lists are being used for Wednesday's presidential election and opposition leaders are again telling their supporters to stay home.

President Deby is facing four challengers. Two are ministers in his government. The two others are members of parties belonging to a coalition allied to the president.

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