News / Africa

Cameroon’s Polls: Praised by International Observers; Condemned by Opposition

International observers have given authorities in Cameroon a passing mark after monitoring the October 9 presidential election amid widespread opposition allegations of fraud, organizational lapses and elevated voter abstentions. Across the country, many say they expect no surprises. Incumbent President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, is widely expected to win another seven-year mandate.

The national electoral commission is busy compiling results of the ballots filed in from over 24,000 polling stations within the country and overseas, where Cameroonians residing abroad voted for the first time.

A final copy of tallied results will be submitted to the Supreme Court, which will formally announce the winner by October 24.  In the meantime, the court is scrutinizing ten petitions lodged by candidates demanding either the partial or complete annulment of the results.

The petitions include diverse allegations including the failure to properly distribute all voter cards, the late opening of polling stations, multiple voting, ballot-box stuffing, the absence of indelible ink and the intimidation of voters.

A supporter of Cameroon President Paul Biya stands next to a giant election campaign ball in Yaounde, Cameroon, October 8, 2011.
A supporter of Cameroon President Paul Biya stands next to a giant election campaign ball in Yaounde, Cameroon, October 8, 2011.

Edith Kahbang Walla is leader of the Cameroon Peoples’ Party and one of the plaintiffs.  She says she’s pushing for an urgent overhaul of the country’s electoral machinery.

"We have put in a request for cancellation of the election at the Supreme Court," she said. "We’re working with other political parties to see what other actions we need to take and we’re insisting on the need for immediate reform of the electoral system because we saw an electoral system that is simply not functional."

But even within the opposition, many argue the court lacks independence and is at the beck and call of the outgoing president.  At the last election in 2004, eight such petitions were filed but were dismissed by the Supreme Court judges – all named by the president.

Joshua Osih is deputy vice president of the main opposition Social Democratic Front, the SDF.

"Well, it is not because the Supreme Court has its hands tied that we will not entertain them with the cases that we have on hand," he said.

The court will not consider any complaints until the winner is declared.  However, once it does rule on a complaints, its decision can not be appealed.

And despite the opposition criticism of the election management body – Elections Cameroon, or ELECAM, international observers from the African Union, La Francophonie and the Commonwealth have given the election a passing grade.

Fred Mitchell, a former foreign affairs minister of the Bahamas,  led the Commonwealth observer mission to Cameroon.

Cameroon’s Polls: Praised by International Observers; Condemned by Opposition
Cameroon’s Polls: Praised by International Observers; Condemned by Opposition

"We observed the fact that the election was conducted peacefully," said Mitchell, "that people felt no form of coercion to come out to vote, and although there were some administrative and logistical problems, we believe that there was a valued first effort to establish ELECAM as an independent acting body for elections. I think that is something that your country ought to be proud of."

But critics don’t agree.  Many are holding ELECAM responsible for the shortcomings, including voter apathy levels considered to be the highest since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in Cameroon in 1992.  Over 7.5 million voters were expected at the polls Sunday for the one-round ballot, but a civil society organization, Un Monde Avenir, has revealed statistics indicating the turnout rate was below 35 percent, or only a little over 2.5 million.

Jean Simo, a resident of the largest city and commercial hub Douala, says he abstained because he was convinced 29-year-serving Biya and his ruling Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement party, or CPDM, will win.

"In my opinion," he said, "nothing will change because our democracy is so advanced that before going to vote, we already know the results.  It is certain that Mr Biya’s CPDM party will win the election.  So I did not care to go out and vote because that will not change anything."

The outgoing 78-year-old Biya has won all three previous elections since 1990 amid opposition charges of widespread rigging.  In 2008, he eliminated term limits from the constitution to seek reelection this year against a record 22 opponents in the single-round ballot.

Meantime, analysts say several factors have given Biya an edge over his challengers, including the fragmented nature of the opposition, the multitude of candidates and their thin public support as well as nationwide hegemony enjoyed by the ruling party.

Franklin Nyamsi, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Rouen in France,  says until the opposition forms a common block, political change through the ballot box will remain unfeasible. According to Nyamisi, Cameroonians have partly lost faith in elections because the opposition has proven to be irresponsible.  He says the country needs a truly independent electoral commission to ensure change.

Others argue that the absence of a clear-cut plan of succession leaves the future of the country in doubt with the possibility that foreign powers, including former colonial master France, could impose a successor when the Biya era ends.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs