Cameroon President Paul Biya has set July twenty-second this year as the date for the first round of the country?s legislative and municipal elections.  Cameroon national radio said the Presidential decree did not announce the date for the second round of the elections.

In the 2002 vote, President Biya?s ruling Rally of the Cameroonian People won an overwhelming majority of 149 out of the 180 seats in the national assembly. The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) led by John Fru Ndi, won 22 seats.  President Biya has been in power for 25 years.  But opposition has consistently criticized elections in Cameroon as not free and fair.  \

Elvis Ngolle-Ngolle is Cameroon?s minister of forestry and wildlife.  He said the opposition criticism that elections in Cameroon have never been free and fair is not well founded.

?That assertion by some opposition persons is really an assertion that is not well founded because we have had more than eight democratic elections in Cameroon since 1992, and in these eight democratic elections in 1992, opposition parties have won not only several seats in parliament, but they won several councils. And I do not see why they would say there has never free and fair elections because then how would they judge their own victories? Are they saying that the victories they won were not victories he said.

Ngolle Ngolle said in spite some difficulties, the ruling RDPC party, with the help of the international community, has always been opened to perfecting the electoral system of Cameroon.

?We look forward to a much better election this year because the numbers of those that will be registered on the voter register would be higher than in the past because there is a new electoral mechanism called ELECOM which is ensuring that people understand the need and necessity to progress as far as our electoral system is concerned, and because we think that our development partners wish us to have a better electoral system, ? Ngolle Ngolle said.

The minister, who is from Cameroon?s southwest English speaking region, rejected criticism by his fellow English speaking Cameroonians that the region has been marginalized and neglected by the government.  Ngolle Ngolle said the claim was an old claim made for political reasons.

?The marginalization thesis is about those Cameroonians who really do not appreciate the evolution of our country in context. If you look at the evolution and the development of our country in context, you will see that what they call marginalization really is a demonstration of their own frustrations,? he said.

Ngolle Ngolle was in the United States earlier this month as head of a government delegation to meet with Cameroonians who, he said, have expressed their interest to join the ruling party and to organize and elect their own leaders.