YAOUNDE — Cameroon's Supreme Court is indicating it will not follow election laws that give it 10 days to rule on complaints and petitions concerning next month's parliamentary and council elections. Opposition political leaders charge that President Paul Biya's party is manipulating rules to ensure it stays in power.
Consistent inconsistencies have so far marred the electoral calendar in Cameroon.
First, the mandates of parliamentarians and councilors were extended several times by Biya, and elections that were supposed to be held last year were postponed until September 30.
Second, the Supreme Court, sitting as the Constitutional Council, had to examine complaints and petitions submitted by political parties within a maximum period of 10 days. Not enough time, the court said.
Supreme Court Justice Clement Atangana said extra days were needed to review the 265 petitions for council elections and 76 petitions for parliamentary elections the court received.
"It is not possible to study this number," he said.
However, some political parties said that decision disrupted their plans for fielding candidates for the election.
Paul Pufong, deputy secretary general of the Alliance of Progressive Forces, accused the court of not doing its job.
"Our party has lawyers and the lawyers are very busy at the Supreme Court and by the end of the day, I think they will come back with useful information," he said.
Some of the petitions are calling for the polls to be delayed again, saying the president violated the electoral code when he postponed the voting several times.
Lawyer Joseph Mbah Ndam, who is legal adviser of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, has a rundown of some other complaints the court is handling.
"The vast majority of the petitions are centered around members of some political parties being on the lists of other political parties, there are so many. There are cases that are baseless in law, and there are some that are founded, well grounded in the law," he said.
The ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, has been accused of rigging the elections. The party is sure to win about 100 out of 180 parliamentary seats and about 250 out of 360 councils in constituencies where they are unchallenged or are competing with very weak parties.
One of the people defending the ruling CPDM is professor Ngole Ngole Elvis.
"All the 30 political parties running have an equal chance of winning something, but because the balance of forces in this sort of inter-associational competition is always asymmetrical, some political parties will gain more than the others, and in this case the CPDM party has an edge because in organizational terms, in financial terms, political ideology, the CPDM is in all local constituencies with the exception of one," he said.
The elections body also rejected some 100 candidates filing for the two elections. An official of the electoral board in Cameroon said they turned down the nomination papers because a majority of political parties did not respect provisions of the electoral code.
The elections are firmly set for September 30. However, the Peoples Action Party of Ayah Paul, who left the ruling CPDM, has called for the total cancellation of the election, calling it a joke.