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Chad Opposition Rejects Deby Victory

Opposition groups in Chad are rejecting election results that show President Idriss Deby won a third elected five-year term. They say the vote was characterized by fraud and a low turnout.

Opposition members and civil society groups are dismissing official results released on Sunday showing that Chad's President Idriss Deby won 77.5 percent of the vote.

After opposition leaders boycotted the poll on May 3, the only other candidates were two government ministers and two members of parties who had signed an agreement to support Mr. Deby's candidacy.

Throughout the election process, Mr. Deby's opponents protested that the vote was marred by various forms of fraud, including underage and multiple voting. They also insist voter turnout was far lower than the 61 percent announced by Chad's Independent National Election Commission.

Journalists watching the vote say turnout appeared low, and there were cases of voters who cast ballots at several different polling stations. Only a limited number of foreign election observers were present for the vote.

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Chad Marc Wall says his embassy officials could not confirm the official turnout figures. "We observed what we term as a moderate turnout, possibly because of the security situation and the fact that the opposition groups were not participating in the elections," he said.

President of the union of civil society groups, Diride Kemneloum, says the elections did not follow proper procedures. She says, it is not even important whether the election results were good or bad. She says that the very basis of the elections was flawed and not even worth having. She says that only a national dialogue will get Chad out of its current crisis.

Government and ruling party officials deny the accusations of fraud. They say turnout appeared to be low, because unlike previous elections when most voters showed up together when polls opened, this time they voted in clusters at different times.

Three weeks before the elections, hundreds of people died in rebel attacks on the capital, N'Djamena. The elections went ahead despite calls from opposition groups to postpone them. Opposition and civil society groups are calling for a national dialogue to resolve what they call "a national crisis".

Chad started exporting oil three years ago, but it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the U.N. Human Development Index.

Civil society leader Kemneloum says that the international community must do its part, too. She says that everyone needs to pressure the government for talks. She says the international community cannot wait until the country is down and out. She says that now is the time to intervene.

Mr. Deby has ruled Chad since he overthrew Hissane Habre in 1990. He was voted president in 1996 and 2001. A referendum last year, which the opposition also boycotted, removed term limits.