YAOUNDE, Nov – Cameroon’s democratisation process has suffered a serious setback this year after the government transferred elections management from the Ministry of Territorial Administration (MINAT) to the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party of President Paul Biya, says the head of the European Commission delegation in Yaounde.
“We strongly applauded the government’s decision in 2006 to create an independent body Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) to manage elections in the country, believing that this would be the end of flawed polls that has almost resulted in social unrest many times, and a major step forward in the democratisation process,” Javier Puyol told a press conference in Yaounde on Friday.
“But we were very disappointed this year when the authorities appointed the 12 board members of ELECAM and 11 of them were members of the central committee and political bureau of the ruling party. In other words, this simply meant transfering the task of elections organisation from MINAT to one of the parties in contest, actually making it a player and referee at the same time. This was a missed opportunity to advance the democratisation process. This is regrettable. Its a pity. It is already a false start for the 2011 presidential poll which is just by the corner. That election has already lost its creadibility.”
The Cameroon government decided to create ELECAM as an independent electoral body in 2006 following persistent complains from the opposition, the civil society and the donor community that previous elections organised by MINAT since the country returned to multipartism in 1991, were grossly irregular and designed to favour the CPDM. The law creating the body stipulates clearly that members of its board “shall be designated from the midst of independent personalities of Cameroonian nationality, reputed for their stature, moral uprightness, intellectual honesty, patriotism, neutrality and impartiality.”
The move was widely acclaimed as a major step forward. Unfortunately, the spirits of Cameroonians, including militants of the ruling party themselves, were dampened when in May president Biya appointed only the big guns of his party – three members of the political bureau and five members of the central committee – as members of ELECAM. This has generated widespread condemnation from within the country and outside, with the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party already threatening “to do everything to ensure that the 2011 presidential poll does not hold.
Puyol said he understood Cameroonians’ frustrations with the electoral system and appealed to the authorities to do something to regain the people’s confidence in the process. Failure to do this, he said he foresees registration on the voter’s list and turn-out further declining and casting doubts over the legitimacy of those in authority.
“It is sad that Cameroon which has a population of close to 20 million inhabitants has never succeeded to register up to 5 million on the voter list. Things could be worst in the 2011 presidential election and that is not good for the country,” he stated.
Observers in the nation’s capital say the appointments only came to confirm Biya’s determination to be president of Cameroon for life. In April 2008, after 26 years of rule, Biya, using his party’s fraudulent majority in the National Assembly (157 of 180 seats), modified the constitution by suppressing the two-term mandate limit, which means he can run again for as many terms as he wants. The 76-year old Biya came to power in 1982 as the hand-picked successor of former head of state Ahmadou Ahidjo. He is today one of Africa’s longest serving rulers. (END)
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