Idriss Deby has dismissed the threat of a rebel onslaught aimed at disrupting Wednesday’s presidential vote and says he will open talks with groups, many of which contain former allies, as long as they accept the poll results.

In recent months, a 19-party opposition alliance, called Coordination of Political Parties for the Defence of the Constitution, has repeatedly demanded the vote be postponed because it believes the poll is already rigged.

The majority of the opposition is therefore boycotting the vote.

Deby does have four rivals in the race, three of whom are close allies and the other from a little-known party without any representation in parliament.

Easy contest

Two of Deby's challengers are current government ministers - Pahimi Padacke Albert, the agriculture minister, and Mahamat Abdoulaye, the minister for decentralisation.

Kassire Coumakoye, prime minister between 1993 and 1995 is running under the aegis of National Rally for Democracy and Progress (Viva-RNDP), which is also linked to the government.

The final candidate is Brahim Koulamallah of the opposition African Socialist Movement.

As well as domestic complaints Deby is facing international calls to postpone the vote.

Chad has tense relations with
its neighbour Sudan

Pierre Yere, the African Union political advisor, added his voice to US calls to delay the elections over concerns of lack of participation.

Donald Yamamoto,the US deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, has said it was "never too late" to delay the polls.

Civic and social groups within Chad have urged voters to boycott the elections, claiming they will not be transparent.

Controversial referendum

Deby also lost some support among donors after he took on the World Bank in a four-month dispute over how Chad's oil revenues are used.

Deby seized power by force from Hissene Habre in 1990, and was subsequently elected in 1996 and then again in 2001.

He is bidding for a third mandate thanks to a controversial constitutional amendment pushed through in a referendum last year to remove a limit on presidential terms.

As a result of the various issues surrounding the vote the election campaign has been largely lacklustre.

About 5.8 million people out of a population of 10 million are registered to cast ballots at about 11800 polling stations.