“Cameroon’s twin elections made history”
Cameroon made history recently by sending voters to the polls for a ‘twin election’ of parliamentary and council candidates. Correspondent Alphonse Akouyu, 19, from Bamenda, Cameroon, takes a look at the campaign and election day.
There is no doubt that Cameroonians put September 30th in the annals of history when they went to the polls to carry out what is called their civic duty.
Simply put, they carried out their right to vote.
The date was baptized as “the September 30th twin elections” because the electorate had to choose parliamentarians and council heads. Voters streamed in to polling stations located in various parts of the country to choose their leaders for the next five years – parliamentarians, mayors and municipal councilors.
More than 30 political parties were running for the 380 councils and 180 parliamentary seats available, but pundits expected a two-horse race for many of the councils and parliamentary seats between the ruling Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement (C.P.D.M) and the main opposition S.D.F (Social Democratic Front).
The September elections were preceded by a hot campaign period of two weeks, during which various aspirants promised their potential supporters to change society for their good. As is normal in the game of politics, each parliamentary or council hopeful made use of each other’s mistakes, and dwelled on their own strengths. Accessories ranging from T-shirts, umbrellas, watches, caps, and exercise books were used in conjunction with the usual flags and posters at strategic locations, and political debate forums on TV or radio as instruments to pass across the message.
In Cameroon today one tool in the hands of the campaigners is commercial motor bikes commonly called ‘OKADA’. A precious asset, a good number of these with their noisy engines and hooters are capable of attracting any crowd. Markets, bars, public squares and gatherings were not left out of the campaign strategy and in some cases, candidates used the door-to-door method of visiting potential voters in their houses to pass across their message. A good number of the campaigners called on the electorate to vote using their consciences.
These elections were not like previous ones because we witnessed for the first time in the country’s electoral history the use of the Bio-metric system of voting, with the aim of curbing fraud. Managed by ELECAM (Elections Cameroon), a body created to manage electoral affairs in the country, September 30th provided a tough test for the young structure.
Based on ELECAM reports, about five and a half million Cameroonians registered to vote and more than 75 per cent of this number were reported before elections to have taken their cards. Cameroon has a population of more than 16 million based on the latest statistics, so there arises the need to question why such a low turnout.
Even after national identity cards were made free of charge for those who complained about the cost of getting them, usage of mobile registration teams by ELECAM it really didn’t do much to ameliorate the situation. Many Cameroonians have their individual reasons for refusing to register, but history has told us that the only peaceful way of changing a situation is through the ballot box.
Monday September 30th was a public holiday in Cameroon. In addition to the usual public holiday conditions, no form of commercial activity was to take place, and there was to be no movement of vehicles except for administrative, elections authorities and observers. However based on images shown by national TV not all respected the order. Voting was normally to start at 8 a.m and end at 6 p.m, though again national TV reported that minor problems meant that was not the situation in all cases. Security was tight and for once in many days, many parts of the hustling and bustling townships appeared to be asleep. Generally, though there were a few hitches, one can say that the activities of September 30th went on went on well.
The law forbids any channel to release the results, a duty left for the Supreme Court seating in for the Constitutional Council. It’s now left for that organ, which has two weeks to tell the people the victors and vanquished of September 30th.