Chad's embattled President Idriss Deby, who faces a surging rebellion on several fronts, has been officially certified as the winner of his country's latest presidential election with over 77 percent of the vote. Western diplomats say the vote was far from free and fair, and few Chadians appeared to take part.
The vote came as Chad, a new oil producer, also had problems with international lenders who helped pay for an oil pipeline. Chad's government watered down a law ensuring some oil profits would go to alleviate poverty, prompting the World Bank to temporarily cut aid and freeze overseas bank accounts. More on the election from VOA's Nico Colombant.
During the campaign, there seemed to be just one candidate: Idriss Deby. He actually ran against several handpicked opponents, but the opposition boycotted the process.
Anything that looked like a rally was for Mr. Deby: Youth groups and women's associations, all paid for by the government, took to the streets throughout the campaign.
One woman's hat reads that she is against what she calls
Mr. Deby accuses Sudan's government of being behind several rebel movements trying to topple him.
Some of the rebels are allied with Janjaweed militias fighting in Sudan's Darfur region, while other Chadian rebels are allied with Darfurian rebels. Their allies are fighting against each other in Darfur, but in Chad, the common goal is to get rid of Mr. Deby.
During a speech in the central town of Mongo, Mr. Deby promised to defend Chad against what he calls the aggression coming from Sudan. Speaking in Arabic he also promised electricity, roads, schools and hospitals.
Rebels actually passed through here in April on their way to the capital N'djamena before being pushed back.
At every campaign stop, there was intense security -- on voting day, there seemed to be more military and security for the president than actual voters.
There was also obvious cheating.
This woman, noticeable with her panther-printed clothing, had voted just after Mr. Deby -- in front of journalists -- then came to vote at another polling center 30 minutes later.
Mariama, a militant of the ruling MPS party, refused to admit she voted twice. "Everyone in N'Djamena votes for democracy, for peace, for Deby, because they do not want any problems, but only peace for the country."
Many Chadians, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were disillusioned with Mr. Deby's rule. Outside the city center, polling centers were mostly empty.
It is three o'clock in the afternoon, and at one bureau very few people have voted. Officials say voter turnout was 60 percent, but few people believe this..
At a news conference following the vote, when a journalist asked why polling centers had been so deserted, MPS secretary general Mahamet Hissein objected. "People are used to voting. But this is the hottest time of the year, so people don't want to wait in line."
The parliament was attacked in mid-April. Rebels actually thought it was the presidency.
Mr. Deby says he was waiting for rebels, in his words, with croissants and coffee. Mr. Deby actually got the help of French forces stationed in Chad, who informed him of the rebel advance.
Hundreds were killed in the fighting, and rebels fled back to their bases along the border with Sudan, leaving the scene of fighting deserted. They vowed to return and attack the right building.
Now that Mr. Deby has won a new term, many residents believe the rebels will carry out their threat, while N'djamena remains enveloped in an eerie desert calm.