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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More