The Electoral System
The Political System
Chad became a republic on November 28, 1958 after obtaining its independence from France on August 11, 1960. It is located at the heart of the African continent, bordered by Libya in the north, Sudan in the east, The Central African Republic in the south and Cameroon and Niger in the west.
Chad is a unitary decentralized state. It consists of 23 administrative regions divided into departments and sous-prefectures. The Constitution and the Law 02/PR/2000 of February 16, 2000 dictate the administration of these decentralized local government entities and state that the latter are self-governed. Decentralized local government entities are: regions, departments, urban municipalities and rural communities (with local government located in rural districts). These entities are governed by elected bodies. Chad’s history is characterized by a series of violent conflicts and instability. The system of political pluralism that existed towards the end of colonial rule was suppressed by the country’s first President of the Republic, François Tombalbaye, following the country’s independence. Tombalbaye was deposed in a military coup during 1975 and replaced by President Felix Malloum. The 1975 coup initiated a cycle of violence and counter coups. Malloum soon fled, and was replaced by Goukouni Wedeye, who in turn was removed from power by Hissène Habré, who governed the country until December 1, 1990. During Habré’s rule, the country suffered from much instability as it was governed by terror and characterized by many military irruptions and armed rebellions on the political scene.
Hissène Habré’s fall on December 1, 1990 and Idriss Déby rise to power opened up unprecedented political possibilities by alleviating some of the political tensions in Chad. The multiparty system was restored and a sovereign national conference was convened to lay the foundations of the rule of law which all Chadians desired. This resulted in a new constitution which was adopted by referendum, on March 31, 1996.
Since the constitution’s adoption, elections have been regularly organized and the country has gradually stabilized, despite the occasional armed uprising, notably those of 2006 and 2008.
Regarding the economy, Chad has made significant progress in the area of oil exploitation. Historically, its principal economic sectors were agriculture and animal husbandry, which were the country’s primary resources, however several oil companies are now active in the country. The investments made with oil revenues resulted in an improvement of the population’s living conditions. For example, many new infrastructure projects in the health, education and transportation sectors were established. Nevertheless, while progress has been noted and appreciated, much remains to be done. The main socio-economic indicators in Chad are still bleak. Indicators regarding literacy, access to drinking water and health clinics are still very low, whereas maternal and infant mortality rates are still considerably high.
The electoral system: the voting process
The voting system changes with the type of the election held in Chad.
Article 136 of the Electoral Code states that the President of the Republic shall be elected by a single plurality system with runoff. To be elected in the first round a candidate must obtain the absolute majority of votes cast, that is to say, 50% of the votes plus one vote. If no candidate meets this condition, a runoff is organized between the two candidates who respectively rank first and second. Following the runoff, the candidate who obtains the largest number of votes shall be elected. With the exception of the first multiparty elections, the 1996 presidential elections, the incumbent president has always won in the first round, and often with an overwhelming majority.
A mixed ballot system is used for legislative and local elections including: regional, departmental, municipal and rural elections. The first local elections of the country were held in February 2011 in several municipalities, other local elections are scheduled for 2014. The mixed ballot combines a majority system with a proportional system based on the highest remainder. The vote is conducted with closed lists, meaning that each party submits a list of candidates for each seat. The list which obtains the absolute majority of cast ballots wins all the seats. If no list obtains an absolute majority, the seats are allocated by the proportion of votes obtained by each list. This involves determining the electoral quota by dividing the number of cast ballots by the number of seats in competition. Each list is allocated a seat based on the number of times the quota is reached by the votes they have received. The remaining seats are allocated to the lists with the highest remainders.
Example 1: Municipality of Pala. Number of seats 20. Registered voters: 46,000. Actual voters: 42,000. Void ballots: 2,000. Ballots cast: 40,000. The number of valid ballots cast is obtained by subtracting the number of void ballots from the number of actual votes cast.
- List A: 20,500 votes
- List B: 7,500 votes
- List C: 4,500 votes
- List D: 4,000 votes
- List E: 3,500 votes
List A obtains an absolute majority of the ballots cast, therefore it receives all 20 seats. The local assembly will be a one-party assembly.
Example 2: Municipality of Bodo. Number of seats 15. Registered voters: 35,000. Actual voters: 32,000. Void ballots : 2,000. Ballots cast: 30,000.
- List A: 11,600 votes
- List B: 6,900 votes
- List C: 6,000 votes
- List D: 3,500 votes
- List E: 2,000 votes
None of the lists obtains an absolute majority which is 15,001. Therefore, it is necessary to allocate seats on a proportional basis. To this end, it is necessary to determine the electoral quota (EQ). It is obtained by dividing the number of cast votes by the number of seats. E.Q. = 30,000 votes ÷ 15 = 2,000 votes
To receive a seat, to the list must have a minimum of 2,000 votes. On this basis, the allocation of seats in the municipal council of Bodo will be conducted as follows:
- List A: 11,600 votes: number of seats 5. Remainder: 1,600 votes
- List B: 6,900 votes: 3 seats. Remainder: 900 votes
- List C: 6,000 votes: 3 seats. Remainder: 0 votes
- List D: 3,500 votes: 1 seat. Remainder: 1,500 votes
- List E: 2,000 votes: 1 seat. Remainder: 0 votes
Thus, 13 seats are allocated as follows, 5 to List A, 3 to List B, 3 to List C, 1 to List D and 1 to List E. Therefore, there are two more seats that need to be allocated. In order to allocate them the highest remainder is used as the criterion. List A with 1,600 and List D with 1,500 votes have the highest remainders and therefore obtain each one of the two remaining seats.
The proportional system with the highest remainder is an inclusive system which gives an advantage to small parties. All social strata of society are able to gain representation through the results of the election and feel included in the Assembly. However, it does not facilitate the emergence of a stable majority able to govern without institutional deadlocks. Thanks to this mixed and proportional representation system, many political parties have a seat at the National Assembly and in most municipal councils. Indeed, 31 political parties are represented at the National Assembly.
Presidential elections are organized across the entire national territory. The country functions as a single constituency for these elections.
For legislative elections, the constituency is the department with the exception of the capital city of N’Djamena where the municipality is the electoral constituency. For the most recent elections, the country included 61 departments and 10 municipalities of the city of N’Djamena for a total of 71 electoral constituencies. In the past the sous-prefecture was the constituency for legislative elections. A reform was introduced through the political accord of August 13, 2007 and ratified in the Electoral Code. Each department has de facto two seats and additional seats are allocated to departments with larger populations. The National Assembly has a total of 188 seats. The ruling party and its allies have a total of 155 seats.
Local elections are organized in each administrative unit. The number of seats in competition varies with the demographic size of the constituency. The first municipal elections in the country’s history, held in 2011, included approximately forty municipalities in which the number of seats up for election varied from 11 to 35.
N.B. The city of N’Djamena has a total of 35 municipal counselor seats which are allocated according to the demographic size of each municipality in the city. The number of counselors ranges from 2 in the least populated municipalities to 7 in the most populated municipalities.
Debate and controversies around the Electoral Code
Legislative elections are a source of major political debate in Chad. The proportional system was introduced in 2002 in order to mitigate the effects of the majority system that had been in place since the first elections. The proportional system, to a certain degree, allowed for smaller parties to gain representation in the National Assembly resulting in more diversity and representation. Today, there remains a debate concerning the determination of electoral constituencies. As a principle, the size of each constituency should be determined solely on a demographic basis following the principle of equal suffrage i.e. one person, one vote. In this respect, many political leaders believe that the allocation of seats in the last legislative elections should be revisited. They argue that the regions of northern Chad, which have smaller populations, are over-represented in the National Assembly whereas the regions of southern Chad, which have much larger populations, are under-represented. If one reviews the geographic distribution of Chad’s population, it confirms that the southern regions are more populated than those in the northern half of the country.
The other issue being debated concerns the regulation of candidacy in legislative and local elections. With the exception of presidential elections, all other elections are only opened to political parties. In other words, only candidates endorsed by political parties can compete in these elections. Articles 151 and 181 of the Electoral Code mandate that all candidates participating in legislative elections, and all candidates participating in regional, departmental, municipal or rural elections, shall be nominated by a political party.
The prohibition of independent candidacies to legislative and local elections is an item of contention between political parties and civil society organizations. For political parties, elections are first and foremost the business of political parties. They also argue that the history of Chad is such that political parties should be the vehicles that unite forces around platforms to govern the country rather than attempts to disperse and fracture organizations seeking to govern. As for civil society organizations, they argue that the prohibition of independent candidacies violates the law, and notably the Constitution and the Electoral Code which grant to all Chadians, who fulfill the conditions, the right to compete for elected office. This debate is far from being over.
Useful links and documentary resources
- Official website of the National Assembly: http://an-tchad.org/
- République du Tchad, Constitution du 31 mars 1996 révisée: http://www.presidencetchad.org/Constitution_Tchad.pdf
- Le code électoral (LOI NO 003/PR/2009 portant Code Électoral, du 7 janvier 2009): http://publicofficialsfinancialdisclosure.worldbank.org/sites/fdl/files/assets/law-library-files/Chad_Electoral%20code_2009_fr.pdf