Chad's presidential election allowed voters to "freely choose their leaders" without fraud, despite certain anomalies, African Union observers said Tuesday, after polls expected to see President Idriss Deby extend his 26-year rule.
The report by the African Union (AU) — whose rotating presidency is currently held by Deby — noted that most polling station staff "did not show a great mastery of electoral operations."
"Overall, presidential election gave citizens the opportunity to freely choose their leaders ... in a peaceful atmosphere," said the report presented by the head of the AU observer mission in N'Djamena, Dioncounda Traoré of Mali.
Thirteen candidates ran for the top job in Sunday's polls including Deby, who is bidding for a fifth term with the support of state institutions and a strong presence on the ground of his party, the Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS).
But while broadly satisfied, the AU report noted certain shortcomings.
For example, in "81 per cent of polling stations visited the head of the polling station had not checked that ballot boxes were empty" at the start of the day, according to the report by 35 observers present in 15 out of 21 geographical departments.
In addition, the observers "noted with regret that in 10 per cent of polling stations visited, voting in secrecy was not guaranteed," while "in the majority of cases ... election staff did not show a great mastery of electoral operations," notably "in how they emptied ballot boxes," at nightfall, half of the time without sufficient lighting.
Nonetheless, despite opposition claims of ballot stuffing and buying-up of voter cards in the impoverished country, the head of the AU mission concluded that the election was carried out "without fraud."
Provisional results are expected to be published in two weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission, which was boycotted by rights groups and the country's labour movement after five leading activists were detained during the last three weeks.
Under Deby's leadership, once unstable Chad has become both an oil producer and key player in the fight against the jihadist groups on the rampage in west Africa.
But despite a wealth of new oil resources since 2003, half of the population of 13 million lives below the poverty line and seven out of 10 people cannot read or write.