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Top Cameroonian Official Dismisses Concerns About October Vote

Cameroon President Paul Biya is favored to win the October presidential vote
Cameroon President Paul Biya is favored to win the October presidential vote

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  • Clottey interview with Samuel Fonkam, chairman of Cameroon’s electoral board (ELECAM)

Peter Clottey

The chairman of Cameroon’s electoral board (ELECAM) says opposition concerns that October’s general elections will be rigged are unfounded.

The opposition also complains that all of the board’s members come from the ruling Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC).

Samuel Fonkam said ELECAM policies and practices have been revised to ensure the polls will be free and fair within the context of the country’s constitution.

He said some of the electoral changes suggested by the opposition exceed the guidelines of the constitution. He said critics would have to work to have the document changed if they want to see the enactment of further reforms.

“The electoral commission in Cameroon is only applying the rules as they exist, not the rules as they ought to be,” said Fonkam. “More and more political party leaders agree with us that until the legal framework is changed, we cannot do the things that they are canvassing that we should do.”

But the leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, John Fru Ndi, says the playing field is not level and the electoral commission is not independent, which he said will undermine the credibility of the vote.

“The opposition has for years been calling for an independent electoral body that will conduct elections that will be free, fair and transparent. But, they ignored all of [the calls],” said Fru Ndi.

He also said the top leadership of the electoral commission is made up of former members of the ruling Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC), a charge the party denies.

Fonkam said it would be a mistake for the opposition to judge the performance of the electoral board before the polls are held. And he rejected claims that the current composition of the ELECAM favors the ruling RDPC.

“At all the levels of the [organization], political parties and opinion leaders are involved in the process as witnesses,” said Fonkam. “The system is such that if the political parties participate as they should, at all the levels, they should be able to control what is happening.”

The opposition SDF has threatened to disrupt the upcoming vote, citing what it calls irregularities in the ongoing voter registration drive.

But Fonkam insists ELECAM is working to ensure transparency.

“There are a number of things we are doing to be ready by the time the elections come up in October,” said Fonkam. “Orders have been placed for electoral material and our staff in the field [has] been given some instructions as for their own preparedness for the exercise.”

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