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CHAD: Parliament votes to prolong its mandate

NDJAMENA, 31 January 2006 (IRIN) - Chad's parliamentarians have voted to extend their own terms in office by over a year, saying the cash-strapped country cannot hold legislative elections along with the presidential poll later this year as scheduled.

But opposition politicians say the law – introduced by President Idriss Deby’s cabinet – is a deliberate move by Deby to keep close allies in the government in troubled times.

Of Chad’s 155-member parliament – heavily dominated by Deby's party – 131 took part in Monday’s vote, approving the extension by 129 votes to 0 with two abstentions, according to Abderamane Djasnabaille, minister of parliamentary affairs and human rights.

Legislative elections, normally held every four years, were to take place in 2006 along with a presidential poll. The law, if ratified by the president, would postpone parliamentary elections until 2007.

“We cannot organise presidential, legislative and local elections all in 2006,” Djasnabaille told IRIN.

“Given the current context we do not have the money to organise all [the polls] at the same time so we prefer to extend the mandate of parliament,” he said, pointing to Chad’s recent falling out with the World Bank, which has halted all loans to the country and frozen an oil escrow account over Chad’s management of its petrodollars.

But opponents of the extension are crying foul.

Michel Barka, head of Chad’s largest labour union and a member of a civil society group monitoring the country’s oil expenditures, said Deby - who faces fiscal pressures, an increasingly vocal opposition, army defections and labour strikes - wants to maintain a sympathetic parliament.

Deby’s Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party holds a vast majority in parliament, with 110 of 155 members and a number of others allied with MPS.

“One must recall that this is the national assembly that voted to modify the constitution [to allow Deby to run for a third term] and changed the oil revenue law,” Barka said, adding that few were surprised by Monday’s vote. “In reality the president wants to keep these members so they can help him in these difficult times.”

Parliament passed a law in December allowing the government to tap into oil revenues that were to be set aside for future generations or devoted to special poverty reduction projects.

Barka added that the government’s claim of lack of funds for elections doesn’t stand up.

“These elections have been planned for this year for a long time and it’s only now that the government realises it does not have the money.”

Opposition parliamentarian Ngarlejy Yorongar, along with a number of other opposition members, boycotted Monday’s vote.

Yorongar told IRIN, “We did not want to be party to this grand deception.”

Theme (s): Economy, Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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