Chad election given thumbs-up despite delays

Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:36pm GMT

* EU mission says saw no evidence of fraud

* First parliamentary test to Deby in eight years

By Madjiasra Nako

N'DJAMENA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Chad's first parliamentary election in eight years went ahead smoothly on Sunday despite some delays in voting, observers said of a poll that will test President Idriss Deby's grip on the oil-producing African state.

Past attempts to stage the election have failed because of the insecurity that has plagued the former French colony since independence. The vote comes before Deby, who came to power in a 1990 coup, is expected to stand for re-election in April.

"From our observations, we have not seen any irregularities specifically aimed at fraud," Louis Michel, head of the European Union observer mission, told a news conference, while noting many voting stations opened up to two hours later than scheduled.

The vote pits Deby's ruling Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS), which currently has a strong majority in parliament, against candidates from the main opposition coalition CPDC.

The run-up to the poll had been fraught with the CPDC securing the sacking of the election commission chief, accused of fraudulently adding eight people to the parliamentary candidate list at Deby's behest.   Continued...

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