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Cameroon:  Presidential Opponent Questions Fairness of Elections    - 2004-09-15


With less than one month to go before the presidential election in Cameroon, a coalition of opposition parties announced their candidate for president on Wednesday.

After months of talks, the opposition coalition, which represents a dozen parties, named Adamou Ndam Njoya, from the Cameroon Democratic Union Party, as its candidate for president in the October 11 election.

The incumbent, President Paul Biya, has ruled the west African nation for 22 years and has yet to announce his intention to seek another seven-year term. But he is expected to do so.

The coalition says its main concern is whether the election will be free and fair. Mr. Ndam Njoya says he hopes international observers will come to Cameroon to ensure that correct procedures are followed, starting with the registration of voters.

"We just want to say there are many countries or institutions who want to come out and observe us but we say that the most important thing would maybe be an audit, an audit of the process which is now concerning registration and make sure that we have registered members," he said. "And also concerning polling stations, which have to be known."

Many people in Cameroon have called for an independent electoral commission, or non-partisan group, to organize the election since President Biya has in the past been accused of rigging elections.

The opposition coalition had hoped to present a united front against Mr. Biya, but cracks began showing in the coalition even before Mr. Ndam Njoya's candidacy was announced.

On Sunday, one of the main opposition parties in Cameroon, the Social Democratic Front, announced that it had nominated John Fru Ndi to represent the party. It is now unclear whether Mr. Fru Ndi will remain a candidate. He finished third in the coalition's internal vote to nominate its candidate.

Observers say only a strong opposition would stand any chance of unseating President Biya if he does run for re-election.

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