Biya’s regime hesitate enforcing new Elections Management body

 cameroon-flag.jpgBy Amin George Forji
The dateline for all parties in Cameroon to register their participation for the upcoming general elections due in June this year at the Ministry of Territorial Administration (MINAT), expired today March 20th, with all major opposition parties boycotting, in protest of poor electoral laws, and registration process, whose attachment to the government makes it very susceptible to massive fraud, that has characterized past elections in Cameroon. It was also the dateline for the parties to indicate he design of their ballot papers.State radio, CRTV reported that of the 207 legalized political parties in he country,only 90 had registered, almost all of which were movements allied to the Biya regime. The station however stated that a senior official from MINAT speaking on condition of anonymity had indicated that the ministry was contemplating postponing the dateline by one more month, during which time it will initiate a constructive dialogue with the opposition.

Despite enormous assurances by the Biya’s government last year to the international community, notably the Commonwealth, the Francophonie and most western countries that the upcoming general elections in the country in June 2007, would be organized by a new independent electoral management body, duped Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), and that the whole electoral process would be computerized; the same government has now that the electoral calender is drawing closer, as expected made an about-turn and return to it’s old ways, swallowing it’s own promises. 

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Although ELECAM was recently voted by the country’s parliament and promulgated into law as the new management board, the government has ruled it out from organizing any elections in the country before 18 months, because of cost. 

When the government’s intentions became apparent, the three major opposition parties in the country, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU) and the National Union For Democracy and Progress (NUDP) warned that they wold boycott he poll except ELECAM is giving a free hand. Their plea definitely felt on deaf’s ears, as the Biya’s regime rather fortified it’s traditional elections fraudulent apparatus, under the supervisory authority of the MINAT. 

The leader of he front line opposition party, Ni John Fru Ndi, speaking during a pree conference in Yaounde on March 14 warned that only a free and fair elections can free Cameroon from bloodshed. Cameroon unlike most countries in Africa has enjoyed peace since independence. Fru Ndi further called on the government to postpone the whole elections until November, so as to give time for the results of the national census that was conducted since Nov. 2005 to be released. Fru Ndi said the results of he census are crucial because they must be used to relocate parliamentary seats as well as the enlargement of councils or administrative constituencies. The present Cameroon parliament has 180 deputies. The 1996 constitution also provides for 100 senators, but that has remained on paper.

During his press conference, Fru Ndi warned that Cameroonians are fed up with elections irregularities and will no longer tolerate the rigging machinery that the CPDM regime has put in place.

“For quite some time now, Cameroon has aligned the year of other institutions with the civil year. It will be necessary, therefore, to adjust the date of the elections to enable the first session of the newly elected Parliament to start in March, which is the first session of the legislative year and also give adequate time to the newly appointed members of ELECAM to master the electoral process.” Fru Ndi said.

Elections in Cameroon have in the past been organized by the MINAT, under the watchdog of the government’s toothless watchdog, the National Elections Observatory, NEO. However, every poll has been characterized by massive fraud in favor of Biya and his ruling party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM.

It should be worth noting that Biya, in power since 1982, has changed the constitution on two occasions to enable him remain in office. With over 60% of he population living on less than a dollar a day, many disgruntled university graduates have left the country in search of greener pastures abroad.

To legitimize his regime, which is dominated by his Ewondo-Bulu clan (70% of all ministers are from his tribe), his government has sponsored the creation of over 120 political parties, most of them usually at the eve of an election, whose leaders at the initial purport to be in the race, but about a week to the elections, they withdraw, calling on all their supporters to cast their votes for Biya.

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