• Idriss Deby seeks fifth term to prolong his 26-year rule
  • Unions, civil-society groups held general strike last month

Voters in Chad will go to the polls on Sunday as President Idriss Deby seeks to extend his 26-year rule amid growing discontent among young people and an economic downturn due to a fall in global oil prices.

Thirteen candidates will challenge Deby, a former army commander who took power in 1990 and has won elections four times since. Chad scrapped term limits in 2005, but Deby told a ruling party conference earlier this year he wants them reinstated.

Opposition parties have pledged to monitor the proceedings and announce results from their own count to run parallel to that of the electoral commission. Deby, 63, won by a landslide in 2011 because the opposition had boycotted the vote. Authorities have banned public marches, citing security concerns.

Unions and civil-society groups withdrew their representatives from the commission last week in anger at the detention of four activists who had called for protests against Deby’s candidacy. They also organized a strike, leaving most schools and institutions of higher education closed on Thursday. Chad’s prosecutor demands six-month prison sentences for the activists.

There’s a deep sense of unease in Chadian society, especially among young people who are frustrated they can’t get jobs, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a March 30 report. The growth of civil-society groups with names such as ‘Enough is enough’ and ‘We’re tired’ reflect widespread unhappiness with the lack of regime change, according to the report.

At the same time, Chad’s economy has been hurt by the sharp drop in oil prices and a deterioration of regional security, with an increasingly chaotic Libya to the north and Boko Haram in Nigeria to the south. Seen by donors including the U.S. as a key western ally in an unstable region, Deby “plays the card of military diplomacy and seeks to take the lead in the regional anti-militant fight,” the International Crisis Group Said.

Oil revenue accounts for about 70 percent of Chad’s budget. Growth in 2015 was probably 1.8 percent, from previous forecasts of more than 10 percent before the oil slump hit, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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