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Cameroon: What if We Did Not Vote on October 9?

This page is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011.

In Cameroon, the October 9, 2011, presidential election does not seem to be generating much interest among the general public. For many Cameroonians, this election has no real stake and voters don't see casting their ballot as worth the trouble, since the outcome is already in favor of incumbent President Paul Biya.

Political blog Cameroun Libre et Solidaire tries to justify this lack of interest [fr]:

A major problem in Cameroon is the lack of interest of  the people for politics. Too many empty promises, made ​​by rogues who wanted above all to position themselves in the feed manger. The result is that not many people register themselves on the electoral roll and will cast their ballot. The challenge lies in this large segment of the population,only waiting to be convinced that there is hope. And yet …. The opposition party with the best chance, SDF, has called for… a boycott. One wonders what they are trying to achieve. But will the election be canceled due to a high level of abstention? Never.

Paul Biya, speaking at the United Nation in New York City, has been president of Cameroon since 1982. Image by United Nation Photos on Flickr, under a CC BY NC ND 2.0 licence.

Paul Biya, speaking at the United Nation in New York City, has been president of Cameroon since 1982. Image by United Nation Photos on Flickr, under a CC BY NC ND 2.0 licence.

The only candidate able to defeat President Paul Biya, who is described by some as a dictator [fr] and has been in power since November 6, 1982, is Paul Biya himself. Although his candidature for his own reelection has not really been a surprise, it still caused quite a stir in public opinion.

However, on closer inspection, one could be forced to realize that there is no real opposition, strong enough to worry Paul Biya. This opinion would be supported by the fact that among the 21 candidates selected by the Electoral Council, no one really stands out, as this blogger notes [fr]:

It is true that in this multitude of candidates, you'll find the eternal so called opponents, like John Fru Ndi, Adamou Ndam Njoya, Jean Jacques Ekindi … It is also true that there are some wacky ones, playing extras, in the name of Paul Biya, or, no doubt, driven by an excess of zeal. The fact is that in these stupid candidatures, we must see the invisible hand of the state party, the CPDM. If not, how do these people, who are virtually unknown even in their residential area, who are not even elected officials and do not belong to any political movement, managed to gather the necessary signatures for their application?

Campaign poster to encourage registration on eclection lists, in Douala, Cameroon, July 2011 - Image by Flickr user verni22im, published under CC BY licence.

Campaign poster to encourage registration on eclection lists, in Douala, Cameroon, July 2011 – Image by Flickr user verni22im, published under CC BY licence.

Where is the opposition?

 

But where is this opposition, in Cameroon? There is none, according to Allain Jules on his blog [fr]:

Non existent. That the word. Apparent apathy. Nothing to put in their mouths. Whatever the reason, despite the wear of the power in place.  Especially since the most viable opposition party of Cameroon, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) of chairman John Fru Ndi, became great pals with Paul Biya's RDPC ; a romance woven since the late wife of its leader had been evacuated to France to be treated by the Etoudi palace (the presidential Palace), nothing is as it used to be. Let us face it: today, the RDPC is unbeatable, even without fraud.

In the same vein, news site Slateafrique.com publishes an analysis [fr] by famous Cameroonian political analyst Mathi Eric Owona Nguini:

The opposition is largely weakened. Its leaders are worn out and their big handicap is the  lack of programmatic and ideologicalproposals. In addition, it is fragmented and lacks drive. Which of course benefits the ruling party, which has been in power longer and is more experienced.

However, in an article [fr] published in 2010, economist Thierry Amougou, aware of this issue, had invited Cameroonians not to be forgetful and not to be fooled again by the regime in place, reminding them of milestones marking the “cycle” of Paul Biya at the helm of the Cameroonian State:

Although polls across the world show that voters’ choices are, on average, guided by events not older than six months at the date of the vote, Cameroonians are requested to have a longer memory this time. They have not been subjected to the misdirection of the Renouveau National for five or ten years, but for nearly thirty years.

To be forgetful, in 2011, is to not recall that the current “gadget politics” aim at making them forget:

-  multiple constitutional changes in favor of one man

- the creation of Elecam, instead of a truly independent electoral commission;

-  the killings of young Cameroonians in February 2008;

- and [anticorruption] Opération Epervier, the result of 30 years of bad governance of the Renouveau National. ».

Faced with this situation, one is tempted to wonder about the future of this country, which has been restless in the past [fr], and whose current president has never been able to achieve unanimity.

This page is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011.

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  • Fouelefack

    As citizens we are free to vote or not and a low level of participation will not lead to any cancelation of elections. Contrarily to what you are saying, there was a high registration rate for the upcoming elections, the figures are impressing.

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