YAOUNDE— Campaigning for parliamentary and local elections is officially underway in Cameroon, amid controversy over the alleged fabrication and buying of fake voter cards ahead of the September 30 poll.
Loudspeakers placed at strategic locations and in populous neighborhoods of Cameroon’s capital blare campaign messages by 35 political parties running in council and parliamentary elections this month.
This message by one opposition party, the National Union for Democracy and Progress, promises to unite the country and keep it out of conflict.
Meanwhile, Denis Kemlemo, a candidate with the main opposition Social Democratic Front, tells VOA he will focus on reviving the economy. “Our economy is failing due to the adoption of unrealistic budgets, absence of true social justice and snail pace development. It is for this reason that we are begging for your support during these upcoming parliamentary and council elections to help bring the change that we desperately need,” he said.
But the campaigns have been overshadowed by a simmering controversy over voter registration.
The Social Democratic Front and other opposition parties have lodged complaints with the country’s elections management body, Elections Cameroon, known as ELECAM. They allege that voter ID cards have been falsified and note that one such case has been uncovered in the town of Kumba, in the southwest.
Emmanuel Njang, the southwest regional delegate for ELECAM, acknowledges there have been problems, and says his group will take corrective action. “They will not be allowed to vote, and individuals will be prosecuted for bringing in unauthorized material into the polling station,” he stated.
ELECAM’s officer in charge of preparing election materials, Thadeus Menang, said the incident was isolated. He said the biometric registration system will make it nearly impossible for a person to vote more than once.
“We have come across cases, [where the] same voters go around with several ID cards, and who on the basis of these several ID cards register in several places. And when initially you see a case like that it is difficult to determine that it is duplicate," Menang said. "But that is what biometry is trying to help us deal with. With the biometric voter registration system, those cases have been reduced to minimum.”
But some of the opposition parties are also accusing the ruling Cameroon's Peoples Democratic Movement of buying voter cards. John Fru Ndi is the leader of the Social Democratic Front. “Ministers have come from Yaounde and are buying voters' cards from people. We are saying that we will not tolerate any rough game again. We are doing this because we want justice before, justice during and justice after [the elections]. And justice will bring peace,” he said.
President Paul Biya’s party denied the allegations. Fru Jonathan is campaigning for the CPDM ticket in Cameroon's northwest. “The CPDM is not relying on giving material or money to militants for them to vote. I think the CPDM has all the arguments to win the electorate,” stated Jonathan.
The ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, looks set to win about 100 out of 180 parliamentary seats and about 250 out of 360 councils in constituencies where they are unchallenged or are competing with very weak parties.
Some five million registered voters go to the polls on September 30.