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Cameroon: New Elections Commission Debate

The Cameroon parliament is expected to begin debating soon a bill to create an independent electoral commission for next year’s presidential election. The opposition had consistently accused President Paul Biya of having too much control over the country’s elections commission. Now, Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni has been consulting with opposition politicians and civil society groups on forming a new and independent elections commission.

Ni John Fru Ndi is chairman of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party. He described his his meeting with Prime Minister Inoni on forming a new and independent election commission in Cameroon

“We told them that we had boycotted the elections of ’92 because we wanted good laws that will guarantee free, fair, transparent elections; we told them that we had boycotted the elections of ’97 through hoping that government was going to come to reason to come up with an independent electoral commission which was never done.”

Fru Ndi said he also told Prime Minister Inoni about the government’s practice of sponsoring political parties that he said have no support base but which he said the government has used in the past to claim legitimacy.

Fru Ndi also said he told the prime minister that the new election commission should be able to have financial autonomy to guide against what he called government intervention.

“We want the body to have their own means of financing their project, and this should be voted by parliament. We want a body that will go out to conduct these elections and not the government coming in to use government resources to bribe people and the like,” he said.

The Cameroon opposition had been criticized for not being able to come together during past elections, which critics said has given previous elections to President Paul Biya. But Fru Ndi said Biya’s sponsorship of political parties was responsible for the disarray within the opposition.

“You cannot truly come up with a system that will bring all the opposition together because these other people are being sponsored by Mr. Biya. So I think that if he says we Cameroonians advance democracy and they come up with 200 parties, you should not test the strength of these 200 parties by giving them the opportunity to go to try their hands at elections. If somebody cannot win one council seat, you get that person out,” Fru Ndi said.

He said the opposition in Cameroon is hopeful that a truly independent electoral commission would be created before next year’s presidential election. But Fru Ndi said Cameroonians are apprehensive because of so much bad faith in President Biya in the past.

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