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Chad Elections Run Smoothly

Reuters (2/14/11)

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - Chad's first parliamentary election in eight years went ahead smoothly on Sunday despite some delays in voting, observers said of a poll that will test President Idriss Deby's grip on the oil-producing African state.

Past attempts to stage the election have failed because of the insecurity that has plagued the former French colony since independence. The vote comes before Deby, who came to power in a 1990 coup, is expected to stand for re-election in April.

"From our observations, we have not seen any irregularities specifically aimed at fraud," Louis Michel, head of the European Union observer mission, told a news conference, while noting many voting stations opened up to two hours later than scheduled.

The vote pits Deby's ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), which currently has a strong majority in parliament, against candidates from the main opposition coalition CPDC.

The run-up to the poll had been fraught with the CPDC securing the sacking of the election commission chief, accused of fraudulently adding eight people to the parliamentary candidate list at Deby's behest.

"I am not happy, the vote was not well organised. Some people spent hours trying to find their voting station -- it's not right," said Fatime Djarangar in the capital N'Djamena, echoing concerns among many voters.

Chad produces about 115,000 barrels of oil per day but has until recently been gripped by simmering rebellion in the east and the land-locked nation remains around the bottom of the United Nations' Human Development Index of quality of life.

There are some hopes for stability after Deby last year appeared to have improved relations with Omar Hassan al Bashir, president of neighbouring Sudan, after five years of a proxy war fought by their rebel groups on their border areas.

Preliminary results could take several days to be published.

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