Is Cameroon's long-serving Biya eyeing new term in 2018?

Cameroonian President Paul Biya. PHOTO | FILE 

Cameroon’s two houses of parliament open Thursday for the 2016 legislative calendar amid speculation that long-serving President Paul Biya may table a bill to amend the constitution.

Local media reports say the president, who at 83 has been in power since 1982, may table a bill to re-introduce the post of vice-president and also to give himself sole authority to call elections.

Supporters and allies of the governing Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) have been calling on their leader to seek another presidential mandate when his current seven-year term expires in 2018.

Additionally there have been increasing calls from party members for President Biya to call early elections.

There are fears within the president's circle that the French and American governments may object to another term bid in 2018, but reports indicate this will be cushioned by the re-introduction of term limits in the anticipated constitutional changes.

The Cameroonian leader would have been ineligible to vie for the 2011 presidential election had parliament not tinkered with the 1996 constitution and done away with presidential term limits in 2008, a move widely believed to have been remote-controlled by the leader.

The constitutional revision of 2008 triggered bloody clashes in major cities across the country.

Term reduction

Other amendments to the constitution expected to be tabled in parliament include the reduction of the presidential term from the current seven years to five years.

“We’ve heard of the re-institution of the post of vice-president before, but the bill never came. So we are waiting,” member of parliament Cyprian Awudu Mbaya of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) said.

“There are many draft laws that are pending, you can never tell the kind of bill that will come up and when it comes, we do just what is humanly possible with such bills,” said the SDF member.

Speaking at a recent rally in the Cameroon capital, Yaounde, the chairman of the National Union for Democracy and Progress (NUDP) party, Bello Bouba Maigari, called on supporters to be "ready for any eventualities" as calls from the ruling party for President Biya to call early elections intensified.

The NUDP party is an ally of Biya’s governing CPDM.

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