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Biya Calls For Postponement of Legislative Elections 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

President Paul Biya on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, wrote to the President of the Senate asking him to convene the Bureau of the Upper House in order to consult them about his intention to postpone the Legislative Elections for one year with effect from 29 October this year.

On that June 13, a correspondence was addressed to the President of the Senate and allegedly that of the National Assembly, by the Head of State demanding that both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament take the appropriate measures to permit him to prolong the mandate of the current MPs by one year. Worth noting that the Constitution of Cameroon, gives the President of the Republic the prerogative to prolong the mandate of MPs and councillors including mayors, in a case of a “’Force Majeur’.

It would be recalled that the last legislative and municipal elections in Cameroon took place on September 30, 2013, as twin elections. The five year mandate of the councillors as well as the MPs that were all elected in 2007, was actually due to end in 2012. But then their mandate was extended to 2013, following a decision by President Biya to prolong their mandate by one year.

Meanwhile, the five year mandate of the MPs and councillors that were elected at the twin elections of September 30, 2013, is due to end in October 2018.

Experts on the Electoral Law had stated that, according to the Constitution, President Biya was supposed to announce the date of the 2018 Municipal elections latest June 20, 2018, and the latest date for the President to announce the date of the legislative election is June 21, 2018.

They further stated that, in case the President was to decide to postpone the two elections as speculated, he would make it known before June 16.

Thus, by addressing the correspondence to the President of the Senate as well as the President of the National Assembly on June 13, about his intention to postpone the two elections, Biya respected the Law.

The Post has learnt that the President of the Senate, Marcel Niat Njipenji, and the President of the National Assembly, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, will convene the Bureaus of the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament to respectively early this week, if not today, June 18, to deliberate and take rapid action on the demand by the Head of State for the legislative elections to be postponed.

This is apparently the only demand that President Biya makes to parliament that does not raise any type of objection from MPs of the opposition, because it has to do with their self-interest, as their mandate has to be prolonged. On this issue thus, there is always great unanimity in views and votes by both the MPs of the ruling CPDM and those of the opposition.

Reason For Postponement

President Biya claimed that the main reason for the decision to postpone the two elections is because of the fact that Cameroon’s electoral calendar for 2018 is so crammed up, arguing that it has become imperative to reduce the number of elections scheduled to be organised this year.

If the elections are postponed, this will make the task for Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, less cumbersome and, perhaps, enable the organ to organise a hitch free election.
Four major elections were, in fact, scheduled to hold this year– the senatorial, municipal, legislative and presidential elections.

The senatorial elections took place last April. It should, however, be noted that, comparatively, the senatorial election is unlike the other three elections since it is less costly and less complicated to organise. For one thing the electorates are members of an Electoral College – comprising only councillors.

Earlier, government sources had concordantly stated that this year’s Legislative and Municipal Elections would be postponed for security and financial reasons. As regards security concerns, there is, above all, the worsening insecurity in the two Anglophone Regions (Northwest and Southwest), caused by the escalating Anglophone crisis.

There is also insecurity in the Far North Region where the war against Boko Haram, the terrorist group from neighbouring Nigeria, has been raging since 2014. In the East Region, the insecurity is caused by gangs from the neighbouring Central Africa Republic.

The issue of insecurity is serious because, as it would be recalled, that, during the last senatorial elections, members of the Electoral College in Lebialem Division, for example, had to be transported by military helicopter to Dschang, in the Menoua Division, to vote there, because of the high level of insecurity in the Division.

Even then, not all councillors could travel. It is, therefore, easy to imagine how challenging and hazardous it would be when it comes to the municipal, legislative and presidential elections that are by universal suffrage.

The financial difficulties the country is witnessing could be a genuine reason for postponing of elections. It is no secret that Cameroon is, once more, plunged in a financial crisis and the country is, again, back at the Breton Woods Institutions, cap-in-hand, for loans.

Osih urges Cameroonians To Register

Meanwhile, the SDF flag bearer at the 2018 presidential elections, Hon Joshua Nambangi Osih, who just returned to the country from a trip to West Africa, has issued a call via twitter, urging all Cameroonians of voting age, who have not yet registered in the voters’ register, to try to do so as a matter of urgency. “Let everyone who is not yet registered take action today. As a Cameroonian citizen, you will therefore take ownership of an opportunity for change”, Hon Osih pleaded.

Unlike the legislative and municipal elections, the presidential elections also scheduled this year will certainly take place, as the President of the Republic does not have the constitutional power to postpone them and, thus, prolong his own mandate.

While the mandate of Senators, MPs and Councillors is five years each, that of the President of the Republic is seven years. The last presidential election took place on October 9, 2011. Thus, the seven-year mandate of President Biya is drawing to an end.

Experts on Cameroon’s Electoral Law say President Biya has to announce the date of the 2018 presidential election within the period of June 16 –July 16, 2018. Once the President announces the date of the election or convenes Cameroonians to the polls, ELECAM will immediately stop the ongoing voters’ registration exercise.

Any Cameroonian of voting age that would not have registered then will, according to the Law, not be able to vote at the presidential elections.

Still according to the Constitution, the 2018 presidential elections will hold on a date within the period of September 11-October 14, 2018.