Voting begins in Chad election
N'djamena - Voting began on Monday in the first round of Chad's presidential election with incumbent Idriss Deby Itno virtually assured of victory after his three main rivals boycotted the polls.
Deby, in power since ousting dictator Hissene Habre in a 1990 coup, is seeking a fourth term.
Key opposition leaders Saleh Kebzabo, Wadal Abdelkader Kamougue and Ngarlejy Yorongar have withdrawn from the vote after claiming that Deby's Patriotic Salvation Movement (MPS) party stole February parliamentary elections.
Witnesses said many voting stations opened late in the capital because of the late arrival of voting materials and staff.
Having demanded reforms that include the issuing of new voters' cards, the opposition claims that unfair conditions caused the MPS to crush them in the February parliamentary poll and are predicting the new poll will be an "historic fraud".
Deby has said he is certain of re-election and that the poll would be "credible".
Turnout only test
The real reason for his former challengers' boycott was that "they realise they will be beaten", the president told a press conference on Friday.
His two remaining challengers are from smaller opposition parties: Albert Pahimi Padacke and Nadji Madou.
About 4.8 million of Chad's 11.1 million citizens are eligible to vote on Monday, plus around 233 000 expatriates.
Deby's MPS party won an absolute majority with 113 of the 188 seats in parliament against a fragmented and underfunded opposition of more than 100 parties in the February polls, the first contested by the opposition since 2002.
An observer said that the only test of Deby's support will be in the turnout on Monday.
Sandwiched between volatile neighbours Niger and Sudan, Chad is one of Africa's poorest countries, despite abundant resources of uranium and gold.
It became an oil producer in 2003 following the completion of a $4bn pipeline linking its oilfields to depots on the Atlantic coast.