News / Africa

Some Diaspora Voters Cleared to Cast Ballots in Cameroon Election

Cameroon's President Paul Biya (file photo)
Cameroon's President Paul Biya (file photo)

Lawmakers in Cameroon have agreed to changes in the electoral law that would allow some people living outside the country to take part in October's presidential vote. Opponents of President Paul Biya have been pushing the move as part of changes they want before that vote.

Biya is running to extend the power he has held since 1982, having changed the constitution to remove term limits.

The 77-year-old is again facing a divided opposition and is backed by security forces experienced in putting down protests. Changes made in the run-up to this vote have largely favored the ruling party, including shifting the authority to announce results from the electoral commission to the constitutional council.

After years of opponents pushing to extend voting rights to an estimated 5 million Cameroonians living abroad, Biya's party has now agreed, with conditions.

National Assembly Vice President Emilia Lifaka said the new law extends only to those who are duly registered with their local embassy. It does not include Cameroonians with dual nationality or those seeking asylum.

“There are Cameroonians who have applied for asylum," said Lifaka. "You know those Cameroonians will not come up because they have already said they are looking for them in the country. The country is bad. The country is this. So those people who are asylum seekers will definitely not go and register [at the embassy]. That will not be our fault.”

Opposition lawmaker Joseph Banadzem said it is unfair to penalize many of Cameroon's best and brightest who have settled abroad.

“Our compatriots who settled out are those who went and did serious studies, who got good jobs, who even got married to foreigners," said Banadzem. "They have that double nationality. If we don't open up, those are the people who eventually will not vote. And they are the people whose vote would have a lot more meaning in Cameroon.”

Banadzem said Biya's party wants to restrict expatriate voting because most of those living abroad oppose his nearly 30 years in power.

“Those who are out there are those who are generally very critical, generally very objective, impartial and always do things which are right," said Banadzem. "And if they are opposition, it means that the opposition is doing and saying which are acceptable by most of the people around.”

Banadzem said the move to extend voting rights to some expatriates should be accompanied by other changes, including a more independent electoral commission.

“This vote of the diaspora should have meaning. Before you have Cameroonians abroad voting, you must know that the electoral process is proper," he said. "You can not have a fraudulent electoral process and then you let Cameroonians in the diaspora vote.”

Ruling party lawmaker Lifaka said that like anything new, voting abroad will be a work in progress. She said the government is willing to consider extending voting rights to those with dual nationality in the future.

“Most Cameroonians want to be part of the decision-making process in this country. And I think if we get our compatriots who are out of the country to register and vote where they are, I think it is very important. It shows how far our democracy is evolving.”

With just three months to go, Interior Minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya said he will do everything possible to ensure that the new expatriate voting rules are applied for this vote.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs