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Cameroon Vote Postponed Until June 30

Voting in the central African republic of Cameroon has been postponed for one week by a presidential decree citing logistical problems. Parliamentary and municipal elections are now due to take place on June 30.

The president also fired the interior minister, Ferdinand Koungou Edima, and the head of the organization responsible for prodicing the ballots was replaced, after the sole ballot printer failed to meet its deadline.

Cameroon's government postponed parliamentary and municipal elections just one hour after polling began Sunday. President Paul Biya issued a decree saying elections would be delayed one week because of logistical problems

The decree said the delay would assure transparency and the participation of all political parties in the democratic process. But opposition parties said the move was evidence of the government's failings.

The ballot marks the first time parliamentary and legislative elections are to take place on the same day. A record number of parties are participating: 47 for parliament and 27 for the municipal elections.

The last municipal vote was in 1996, and a new vote was originally scheduled for last year. But this has already been delayed twice due to logistical problems.

The main problem appears to be that the sole printer charged with producing the ballots failed to meet the deadline.

Polling was to have begun at 8:00 a.m. Sunday, but observers said none of the voting stations visited in the capital, Yaounde, had been supplied with ballot papers.

During the last legislative elections five years ago, the opposition claimed massive fraud and demanded, unsuccessfully, that the results be annulled.

Opposition parties have made similar allegations this time around, accusing the government of planned vote-rigging.

This has done little to inspire public interest, with only half the potential nine million eligible voters registered.

Critics claim President Biya, in power for 20 years, deliberately scheduled the elections to coincide with the World Cup soccer tournament, with the hope that it would distract attention from vote-rigging.

The ruling party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, currently holds 116 out of 180 seats in parliament. The remaining 64 seats are split between six parties.

The Social Democratic Front, which holds 43 seats, complained in the run-up to this year's vote that electoral officials rejected many of their candidates.

Cameroon is home to a French-speaking majority and an English-speaking minority. English speakers complain that they are treated as second-class citizens, and they have lobbied for years for autonomy and secession.

Dozens of political parties have sprung up since Cameroon adopted a multi-party political system 10 years ago. But few of them have a political platform, beyond promising voters happiness and prosperity.