N’DJAMENA - Chad is preparing to hold a presidential election on May 6. The interim president, Mahamat Idris Deby, seized power three years ago following the death of his father, former President Idris Deby. The military junta has vowed to oversee a transfer to democratic rule in the landlocked central African country. But the killing in March of the most prominent opposition politician has, along with the electoral body’s barring of two other candidates for “irregularities,” given the sense that the vote is designed to legitimize Deby’s rule.

Deby is one of 10 candidates. The other high-profile contender is Prime Minister Succes Masra. The previously exiled opposition politician took up the position of prime minister at the start of this year after reaching an agreement with the military regime last November. Analysts say it’s unclear whether Masra’s candidacy is a junta-orchestrated bid to falsely present the election as a genuine contest, or a genuine attempt to replicate Bassirou Diomaye Faye’s recent success in Senegal by riding a wave of popular discontent.

Recent history suggests a democratic move away from Deby could be crushed. At least 50 protesters were killed in 2022 during demonstrations against the regime’s move to delay elections. Ulf Laessing, Sahel program director at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation think tank, said the vote is likely to be held in a repressive environment. “​​I don’t think these will really be fair and transparent elections,” he told Semafor Africa.

The first round of voting is due to take place on Monday. If there is no clear winner, a second round will be held on June 22.