Chad considers presidential terms but the opposition is sceptical
Anger is growing in the oil-producing African state over Idriss Deby’s long, authoritarian rule and punishing austerity cuts
N’Djamena — Chad on Monday was due to start discussing sweeping constitutional reforms including presidential term limits in a country ruled with an iron fist by Idriss Deby since a 1996 coup.
A "national forum", comprising about 700 participants that includes ruling party figures, members of civil society close to the government and representatives of the Chadian diaspora, was due to kick off in the capital N’Djamena.
It is being boycotted by the opposition. The Fonac, or the New Opposition Front for Change party has said the process is aimed at "perpetuating the power of Idriss Deby, something that is harmful and dangerous for the future of Chad". A draft of the proposals includes a presidential term of seven years through direct universal suffrage and a maximum of two terms.
The current mandate is five years and there are no limits on re-election. Deby came to power in a 1996 coup and is serving his fifth term.
There has been growing anger in the oil-producing country over Deby’s authoritarian rule and protests over austerity cuts, partly prompted by a slump in world fuel prices.
A Western ally in combating jihadism in the volatile Sahara region, Chad has endured two years of severe recession worsened by a slump in oil prices.
The state is imposing cuts in public spending that the finance ministry says are vital to stave off bankruptcy, fanning discontent in a country where almost half the population of 14-million lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
The other proposals aim at increasing the terms of MPs by two years to six, scrapping several state institutions including a body monitoring how oil revenues are spent and whittling down the country’s 23 "regions" to 14 "provinces."