News / Africa

Cameroon's Long-Time Leader Likely to Win Re-Election Sunday

Cameroon President Paul Byia (file photo)
Cameroon President Paul Byia (file photo)
Anne Look

Cameroon votes Sunday in a presidential election that longtime president, Paul Biya, looks poised to win, though analysts say isolated unrest remains a possibility.

The incumbent's victory seems a foregone conclusion in the face of a fractured opposition and high voter apathy.

President Biya has been in power since 1982 and won every election since the country moved to multi-party democracy in 1992. The presidential election is a single-round poll, so the record 22 challengers in this election is likely to split the vote in Biya's favor.

The president has been largely absent from the campaign trail, but his banners dominate the main highways and urban centers.  

Speaking in Maroua in the far North Thursday, Biya says "we all have a vision of an emerging Cameroon". He says "we laid out great ambitions in the last election in 2004, which are now becoming a reality". He says he will make the realization of large infrastructure projects aimed at improving the lives of Cameroonans the focus of his next seven-year mandate.  

During his 29 years in power, analysts say Biya has proven adept at out-maneuvering his political opponents. His highly centralized style of governing has weakened state institutions, analysts say, while affording a certain stability to the central African country despite its ethnic, religious and linguistic rifts.

Opposition parties failed to unite behind a single coalition in the last election in 2004.  Biya won a landslide victory in that poll with more than 70 percent of ballots.  His closest challenger, Ni John Fru Ndi, won only 17 percent.

Fru Ndi is again expected to be Mr. Biya's key oponent. He heads the country's lead opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, which backtracked on previous threats to boycott, and possibly disrupt, this election. Some say the change in strategy came too late to mobilize voters.

Opposition members continue to accuse the electoral commission of being pro-ruling party and have expressed concern about irregularities on voter lists. Fru Ndi has called on Cameroonans to protest if the elections are not free and fair.

However, Douala residents, like Maureen Ndi, says that they have little appetite for revolution.

"I'm not ready to join any demonstrations or protests," said Ndi. "If the opposition has to protest the elections of the presidential election, I believe that the happenings in other countries like Ivory Coast, Egypt, Libya is still too fresh in our memories. If it has to happen here. It is going to be terrible, drawing to the fact that we have never experienced war. Cameroonans are suffering. We want peace."

Biya eliminated term limits from the constitution in 2008 to pave the way for his re-election bid, fueling protests over high food prices that killed at least 40 people. Popular frustration over high unemployment and spiraling living costs continues to fester. Tensions have already flared during campaigning.

Ten days before the poll, unidentified gunmen in military fatigues blockaded a main bridge in the commercial capital, Douala. They exchanged gunfire with security forces and carried signs calling Biya a dictator and demanding he step down.

Just two days later, police arrested more than 100 protesters seeking independence for Cameroon's English-speaking western regions.

West Africa analyst for consultancy group Control Risks, Roddy Barclay, said the elections are sure to be a "turbulent period" but that economic, rather than political, factors drive social unrest in Cameroon.

"There are certainly a lot of grievances in the community but I don't think that is going to lead to an outbreak of national unrest," said Barclay. "It will however lead to localized protests which have the potential to turn violent. The government is acutely aware of the potential for popular unrest. It has seen what has happened in North Africa and also in Burkina Faso, and I think it will deploy security forces en masse to mitigate against the threat of popular unrest."

Barclay said Biya has also taken other measures to head off tensions, including putting subsidies on common foodstuffs and fuel, as well launching a recruitment drive to hire 25,000 youth into the public sector.

Though the election is likely to maintain the political status quo in the short term, Barclay and other analysts say uncertainty lies ahead for Cameroon when Biya does one day leave office.  

Polls close Sunday at 6 p.m. local time, after which the Constitutional Council has two weeks to declare results.

Ntaryike Divine Jr. contributed reporting from Douala, Cameroon.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid