Chad vote counting underway after tense election: First in Sahel since coups

Chad vote counting underway after tense election: First in Sahel since coups
Soldiers patrol the capital Nouakchott / Photo credit: Issouf Sanogo

Vote counting began in Chad amidst heightened tensions after the closure of polls Monday, marking the Sahel's first presidential election since a series of coups swept the region. Dozens of security forces were deployed across the capital N'Djamena, with soldiers and riot police patrolling alongside armored vehicles, Reuters reports.

At least one person was killed in Moundou, the country’s second largest city, when gunmen attacked a polling station, Chadian media reported.

President Mahamat Idriss Deby, who heads an interim military government, is favored to win despite an unexpectedly strong challenge from his former prime minister, Succes Masra. Citing concerns about vote manipulation, some opposition members and civil society groups called for a boycott, raising fears of potential violence., Chad hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960.

Provisional results are expected May 21.

Deby has maintained close relations with the former colonial power France, which maintains a large military presence in the country. This contrasts with the region’s junta-led countries including Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, which have asked France and other Western powers to leave and turned instead to Russia.

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