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Chad's Government, Opposition Agree to Electoral Changes

Representatives of Chad's ruling party and a coalition of political opposition parties have signed an agreement to change the electoral system, increase the opposition's role in the current government and delay the next election until December 2009. But some analysts say this latest political deal will not change Chad's politics. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's Central and West African Bureau in Dakar.

The coalition, called Coordination for the Defense of the Constitution, had boycotted the 2006 presidential election that re-elected current President Idriss Deby, accusing the ruling party of electoral corruption.

In Monday's agreement, this coalition of about 20 opposition parties agreed to participate in a new legislative election in two years after major electoral system changes, including fraud-proof biometric voting cards, electronic voter lists, and a new electoral commission.

Analyst Paul Simon Handy with the South African Institute for Security Studies says this does not mean an increase in power for the opposition.

"Holding ministries is not going to change Chad's political scene. We have seen President [Idriss] Deby offering positions in the government. It cannot be real power-sharing considering the structure of power in Chad and how President [Idriss] Deby has managed to keep a firm hold on his power," he said.

Handy says President Idriss Deby's strategy is to further divide an already fragmented opposition so he can stay in power.

"We see the government having a policy of negotiating separately with many opposition groups. I do not think this strategy shows the president's will to really break with the long history in Chad of factionalism," he said.

Other ongoing negotiations include talks with Chad's main armed groups, as well as with exiled leaders who traveled to Chad's capital earlier this month with former President Goukouni Oueddeye.

The government has been battling a low-intensity war against armed military groups for the past two years along Chad's border with Sudan.

Mr. Deby seized power militarily in 1990. He was re-elected last year after the constitution was amended to allow for a third term.

Chad government officials did not return calls asking for comment.

The agreement was signed after six months of negotiation mediated by the European Union.