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Cameroon’s opposition wants to change the electoral code

By Franck Foute
Posted on Saturday, 11 December 2021 15:21

Supporters of opposition politician Maurice Kamto greet him as he is being released from prison, in Yaounde, on 5 October 2019. © AFP

Mandatory voting, lowering the security deposit and modifying the Electoral Council’s composition… We list out the main points of the reform project that the opposition was prevented by policefrom presenting on 24 November as planned.

The show of force had an unexpected effect. On 24 November, police and gendarmes were deployed in large numbers in front of the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé, where the opposition was due to officially present its draft reform of the electoral code.

The organisers had no choice but to postpone the event at the last minute, so the guests had to leave. Even so, against all odds, the police’s muscular intervention put the initiative back in the spotlight. Launched by seven political parties last March, it seemed to have disappeared from the radar.

What does this 231-page document, which the opposition is now distributing to all public officials and diplomats in Yaoundé, contain? According to the technical secretariat that contributed to it, 15 political parties, 12 civil society organisations and about 50 citizens responded to the call for contributions that was launched.

The proposals, which mainly concern the electoral code’s provisions that require some modifications, were analysed, excluding those that could require the Constitution to be revised. “This is the minimum acceptable for the elections to take place smoothly,” say the members of the opposition.

The standard and the unexpected

Some of these proposals are fairly standard: introducing a single ballot paper; lengthening the duration of electoral campaigns (30 days instead of 15); lowering the security deposit required for legislative elections (from 3m CFA francs ($5,165) to 500,000 CFA francs per candidate) and municipal (from 50,000 CFA francs to 25,000 CFA francs); and prohibiting polling stations from being set up in barracks or chieftaincies.

Others are more surprising, such as making voting compulsory. This would complement Article 2 of the electoral law, which currently stipulates that the election is by universal, equal and secret suffrage, and that it can be direct or indirect. The measure aims to reduce the abstention rates observed in recent elections. During the last local elections in February 2020, turnout was just over 40%.

The opposition has fear and doubts regarding the neutrality, representativeness and independence of the Electoral Council.

To remedy this, it has proposed that the 18-member body be composed – in future – of eight representatives from parties sitting in the Assembly; three representatives from parties only present in municipal councils; three figures from the three parties whose candidates emerged top during the last presidential election; two representatives from the administration that were chosen by the president of the Republic who have had no political affiliation for at least three years; and two members of the civil society.

The minutes from the 2018 presidential election proved to be a stumbling block while the case was being examined before the Constitutional Council. In general, the authenticity of the documents transmitted to the Commission Nationale de Recensement des Votes was often questioned.

The opposition therefore proposed establishment of a communal commission that will be responsible for supervising votes, ensuring the conformity of the minutes and be above the departmental commission. The objective is to reduce the risk of litigation at the national level. The same document adds that all the minutes should have the same legal value, but that today, only the Elecam’s PV is valid in case of dispute.

Another proposed change – which would amend Articles 133, 168 and 194 of the electoral code – is that post-election disputes be examined after the provisional results have been announced. Therefore, the body would only be able to proclaim an election’s final results once the Constitutional Council settles any possible post-election disputes.

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