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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid