Cameroon opposition demand talks over 'illegal' senate election

Leader of the Social Democratic Front of Cameroon John Fru Ndi. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Cameroon's main opposition party has threatened to disrupt planned senate elections if President Paul Biya does not initiate talks over what they say is the illegality of the vote.

The Social Democratic Front (SDF) is insisting there is an urgent need for going into the April 14 election day.

The party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) held a weekend conclave in Northwest capital Bamenda where it intensified calls for talks.

“If Mr Biya does not talk to us, the SDF will make sure that this senatorial election does not hold. I will tell my boys to sharpen their machetes,” SDF chairman Ni John Fru had told reporters shortly after on the day the president set the poll date.

The SDF says Mr Biya is scheming for his Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) party to scoop all 100 seats in the planned Upper House of Parliament and which could play a major role in determining who succeeds the 80-year-old leader.

"This manner of conducting public affairs is about to cause a major social explosion in the country and perpetrate a constitutional vacuum that can only be solved by sincere political consensus between the protagonists," the opposition party said.

Last Wednesday, Mr Biya set a date for the long overdue polls despite the SDF’s calls for it not to precede votes into parliament and local councils also expected to be held this year.

Voting into the senate was called for in the 1996 constitution but would be held only for the first time only this year.

Seventy senators will be elected by municipal councillors from the 10 regions of the country while 30 will be appointed by the Head of State.

Critics say the senate vote will be an illegal one because the mandates of the municipal councillors who will pick the senators expired last year.

Major flaws

Parliamentarians and local councillors saw their five-year mandates extended last year because of a recompilation of the voters’ list.

They were elected in 2007 in ballots observers said were deeply flawed and which were organised by the defunct elections governing body National Elections Observatory (NEO).

The CPDM controls 300 of the 360 municipalities in Cameroon and is the only political party that will have candidates in all 10 regions of the country.

The CPDM has 10,632 councillors while the SDF has 801.

For the SDF commission, this confirms Mr Biya is obsessed with power and the arbitrary and is not ready for real democracy and multiparty politics.

The day the senate announcement was made Mr Fru Ndi had been summoned alongside other political party heads by Prime Minister Philemon Yang to break the news to them.

In his rush into the capital city from his Bamenda fief, Mr Fru Ndi was involved in a road accident in which two people died and finally met instead with Biya aide Martin Belinga Eboutou.

It is widely reported in local newspapers that Mr Biya has reached out for dialogue and could meet with Ni John Fru Ndi this week.

The outcome of the talks will determine whether or not the SDF will take part in the elections.

If the party is not running, it would make sure the polls do not hold, an SDF official has said.

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