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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
Voting ends in Chad's elections
President Deby (l) and his wife cast their vote
President Deby is widely expected to win
Voting has ended in Chad's presidential election, in which President Idriss Deby is seeking a third term in office.

Opposition parties boycotted the poll and voter turnout was reported to be extremely low.

Rebel groups did not carry out threats to disrupt voting, the BBC's Stephanie Hancock in the Chadian capital, N'Djamena, reports.

However, the country remains divided, with serious security concerns dominating the election.

All Chadians have come out to make their choice, the choice of their hearts, the choice of their convictions
President Idriss Deby

Mr Deby faced four challengers, but the poll was controversial since the main opposition party had refused to put forward candidates.

Results will not be known for another ten days, but everyone in Chad is certain that President Deby will win, our correspondent says.

Defiant

Surrounded by his presidential guard at a polling station in the morning, Mr Deby was in a defiant mood.

A member of the presidential guard at the polling station where Mr Deby voted
Security was tight as Mr Deby voted

"All Chadians have come out to make their choice, the choice of their hearts, the choice of their convictions. They don't need anybody to tell them to boycott elections," he was quoting as saying by the AP news agency.

But our correspondent says voting got off to a slow start in the morning with many Chadians, fearing civil unrest or even a rebel attack, choosing to stay at home instead.

By mid-morning some people had ventured out, and a slow trickle of voters began to arrive at polling stations, she says.

By the afternoon, however, the capital had become a ghost town, with streets, shops and businesses almost completely deserted.

While most of those people who were choosing to cast their ballot were likely to vote for President Deby, others said they would destroy their ballot papers in a protest vote, our correspondent says.

The president's supporters insist he deserves a third term in office, while the Roman Catholic Church and civil rights groups have joined the opposition in calling for a boycott.

Critics say that with all key opposition leaders refusing to field candidates, the elections have become meaningless, and many people say the polls will not be free and fair.

Insecurity

President Deby is adamant his country is under control, although his army has been preparing for the possibility of a rebel attack, following last month's rebel advance on the capital.

These elections do not interest us: we know who will win. This is not democracy
Masra Pall, student

Human rights groups say soldiers have laid mines on the outskirts of the capital to deter a new assault.

At the weekend, the two main rebel groups in Chad announced they would join forces and said they would do everything in their power to prevent the polls taking place.

Some 5.8m people were registered to vote at 11,800 polling stations.

President Deby accuses Sudan of supporting the rebels. Chad hosts some 200,000 refugees who have fled the violence across the border in Darfur.


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