Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Chad constitutional change boosts president’s powers

AFP, N’DJAMENA

Chadian lawmakers on Monday passed a controversial change to the constitution that bolsters Chadian President Idriss Deby’s powers, despite opposition warnings that it would undermine democracy.

The text, which received the green light from the government last month, needed to be approved by three-fifths of lawmakers in the National Assembly. It was passed by 132 votes in the 170-member legislature. Two lawmakers voted against and there were no abstentions. The opposition boycotted the vote.

There was tight security around parliament, with all roads leading to the legislature ringed by police.

Two activists from the Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights were arrested earlier on Monday, said Mahamat Nour Ibedou, the head of the civil society group.

“They wanted to stage a sit-in in front of parliament,” he said.

They were released later that day.

Opposition National Union for Development and Renewal party spokesman Tchindebbe Patalle said all opposition groups had “wanted to demonstrate outside parliament to protest against the vote, but the security forces are posted all around.”

Deby has said that the changes are necessary.

The changes are to increase presidential terms to six years with a limit of two terms. The current mandate is five years with no limits on re-election.

The vote comes amid growing political tensions in Chad, ranked by Transparency International as one of the world’s most corrupt nations, as opposition groups boycotted a forum last month discussing the proposed changes.

A Western ally in combating extremism in the Sahel region, Chad has endured two years of severe recession worsened by a slump in oil prices.

The changes do not include provisions for the creation of a post of vice president, contrary to what was proposed at a national forum on the reforms in March.

Opposition groups have called for the text to be put to a referendum.

Deby, who has been named in a corruption probe in the US, has said that elections on hold since 2015 would take place this year.

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