Chad’s military leader, Mahamat Deby Itno, was declared the winner of this week’s presidential election, according to provisional results released Thursday. The results were contested by his main rival, Prime Minister Succès Masra.

The national agency that manages Chad’s election released results of Monday’s vote weeks earlier than planned. The figures showed Deby Itno won with just over 61% of the vote, with the runner-up Masra falling far behind with over 18.5% of the vote. Gunfire erupted in the capital following the announcement.

Preliminary results were initially expected on May 21.

CHAD HOLDS LONG-AWAITED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SET TO END YEARS OF MILITARY RULE

Chad held its long delayed presidential election following three years of military rule, a vote that analysts widely expected the incumbent to win. Deby Itno, also known as Mahamat Idriss Deby, seized power after his father, who spent three decades in power, was killed fighting rebels in 2021.

The oil-exporting country of nearly 18 million people hasn’t had a free-and-fair transfer of power since it became independent in 1960 after decades of French colonial rule.

Hours ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Masra published a speech on Facebook accusing the authorities of planning to manipulate the outcome.

Chad

Chadian interim President Mahamat Deby Itno casts his ballot, in N’djamena, Chad, Monday, May 6, 2024, in a long delayed presidential election that is set to end three years of military rule. (AP Photo/Mouta)

During the 11 minute speech, Masra appeared in a blue suit at a podium with the national flag in the background and claimed victory, saying the incumbent was planning to reverse the outcome of the vote. He called on Chad’s military, police and other security forces to stop following Deby Itno’s orders.

“These orders will lead you to side with the wrong side of Chad’s history, these orders will lead you to fight your brothers and sisters, these orders will lead you to commit the irreparable and unforgivable,” he said in the speech. “Refuse to obey these unjust orders!”

There was no immediate response from the president’s office.

Masra, president of The Transformers opposition party, fled Chad in October 2022. The country’s military government at the time suspended his party and six others in a clampdown on protests against Deby Itno’s decision to extend his time in power by two more years. More than 60 people were killed in the protests, which the government condemned as “an attempted coup.”

An agreement between the country’s minister of reconciliation and Masra’s political party late last year allowed the exiled politician and other opposition figures to return to Chad. He was later appointed prime minister.

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Chad is seen by the U.S. and France as one of the last remaining stable allies in the vast Sahel region following military coups in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in recent years. The ruling juntas in all three nations have expelled French forces and turned to Russia’s mercenary units for security assistance instead.

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