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Cameroon Electoral Board Prepares for Diaspora Vote

Cameroon President Paul Biya
Cameroon President Paul Biya

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  • Clottey interview with Dr.Samuel Fonkam, chairman of Cameroon’s electoral board (ELECAM)

Peter Clottey

The chairman of Cameroon’s electoral board (ELECAM), Samuel Fonkam, says his organization is implementing measures that will enable citizens abroad to vote in the October general elections.

Parliamentarians recently agreed to changes in the electoral law that would allow some citizens living abroad to participate in the general elections. President Paul Biya is expected to sign the agreement into law.

“We have to apply the law as enacted by parliament and soon to be promulgated by the head of state,” said Fonkam. “ELECAM needs to put into action its machinery to ensure that Cameroonians residing abroad are registered… and that when the time comes they will vote like their compatriots back at home.”

Some analysts say the new measure is a victory for the opposition, which has pushed for changes in the electoral law ahead of this year’s vote.

But, Emilia Lifaka, the vice president of the National Assembly, said the new law extends only to those registered with their local embassy.  She says the measure does not include Cameroonians with dual nationalities or those seeking asylum.

Fonkam said the electoral body should have time to incorporate the new measures ahead of the upcoming vote.

“Depending on how we organize ourselves, time really shouldn’t be a problem,” said Fonkam. “We have no choice in the matter.  They are now entitled to vote, and we cannot now hold this election without ensuring they are part of it. We have to put everything in place to ensure Cameroonians abroad are able to vote.”

An opposition group has threatened to disrupt the polls. The Social Democratic Forum says irregularities in the ongoing voter registration drive undermine the credibility of the elections.

But, Fonkam insists ELECAM will ensure an October vote that’s free and fair.

“There are a number of things we are doing to be ready by the time the elections come up in October,” said Fonkam. “Orders have been placed for electoral material and our staff in the field [has] been given some instructions as for their own preparedness for the exercise.”

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