News / Africa

Cameroon’s Leading Opposition Party Backtracks On Election Boycott Threat

Social Democratic Front officials say government has partially met opposition demands

The policy U-turn comes three weeks before the end of the national voter registration drive.  It was embraced by the party’s national executive committee at a recent weekend session.  Officials say the decision was taken because the government has met some of the demands contained in an 11-point party memorandum issued about a year ago.

In the document, the SDF suggested a two-round ballot, the granting of voting rights to Cameroonians living abroad, the computerization of voter registers and an overhaul of the electoral board, dubbed Elections Cameroon or ELECAM, among others.

The party threatened to boycott, and possibly disrupt the election, if its demands for reforms were not met.

The government responded by appointing members of civil society to ELECAM, which the opposition in general denounces as being filled with militants from the ruling party, the Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Party, CPDM. It also adopted a law permitting Cameroonians living abroad to vote.

SDF leaders agree that many of the reforms have not been met, but argue that it is important to participate in the presidential poll constitutionally set for October this year.

Abel Elimbi Lobe, the vice president of the party’s electoral committee, said the decision by the government to include civil society in the electoral board as well as grant voting rights to Cameroonians abroad are major factors shaping the change in strategy.  According to Lobe, participating in the poll will give the party the chance to denounce flaws intended to continue incumbent President Paul Biya’s grip on power.

Global democracy watchdogs say elections in Cameroon are frequently marred by fraud and a lack of transparency. Seventy-eight-year-old President Biya has ruled the country since 1982. He is expected to seek another mandate, though his candidacy is still to be confirmed. In 2008, the government scrapped term limits, enabling him to run for life.  The United States has urged the government to conduct a free and fair election.

President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is expected to run for re-election in October.
President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is expected to run for re-election in October.

But Biya’s opponents say he should not be allowed to stand.  The opposition Union of Peoples of Cameroon has announced it is boycotting the election.  Its leader, Samuel Mackit, says ELECAM is a tool of the president and cannot guarantee a transparent poll.

Mackit said there needs to be a neutral body to manage the election and ensure credibility.  He said participating in the election would mean validating Biya’s "unlawful" rule.  He sees several signs of vote manipulation including the scrapping of term limits from the constitution, the involvement of government officials in the electoral process and the annoucment that the government and not ELECAM would proclaim the results.

Others in the opposition are also critical. Abanda Kpama, a leader of the Movement for Africa’s New Independence and Democracy, said the SDF has a problem "sticking to its strategies and has once again completely contradicted itself."

He called the move "another indication of political immaturity within the opposition which has frequently failed to join forces against President Biya over the past 30 years."  He said the failure to form a united front has led to a significant drop in the number of opposition members in the National Assembly and local councils.

But SDF officials argue that after careful contemplation, they agreed it would have been wrong to deprive millions of activists of their right to vote and have a say in determining the fate of the country. SDF Member of Parliament Jean Michel Nitcheu said militants will be mobilized to register to vote over the next three weeks and support the party’s candidate.

ELECAM says so far, the total number of voters enrolled stands at 7,5, less than half of the country’s 20 million inhabitants.  Its target is nine million and officials are hoping that the SDF’s decision to shift gears will bring in more voters.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs