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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease 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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid