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ELECAM And The Problem Of Election Rigging 

By Frankline C. Kimbeng*

What is being foisted on Africa is a version of liberal democracy reduced to the crude simplicity of multiparty elections. This type of democracy is not in the least emancipatory, especially in African conditions, because it offers the people rights they cannot exercise, voting that never amounts to choosing, freedom which is patiently spurious, and political equality which disguises highly unequal power relations (Ake, 1996). 

Cameroon’s successive history of flawed elections and our so-called "advanced" democracy depicts the above assertion. Such unequal power relations in Cameroon politics reached its heights during the July 22, 2007 municipal and parliamentary elections.

There is evidence to suggest that they were the worst elections ever to be "organised" in the country.  Marred by vote rigging, corruption, vote buying, , lack of transparency, ballot snatching at gun points, criminal manipulation of voters’ list and brazen falsification of election results, this election was at its best an assault on and abolition of the Cameroon electorate.

The obvious bias and partisanship of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation (MINATD), National Election Observatory (NEO) was central to the failure of the elections. Most of the decisions taken by the MINATD/ONEL and the Supreme Court were clearly the wish or desire of President Paul Biya.

Why ELECAM Should Not Compromise Future Elections

Flawed election is dangerous and fatal to the existence of a country. From Nigeria to Zimbabwe, Kenya to DRC, massive rigging of elections has deprived the governments of legitimacy. Although such a government might be "legal", it, nevertheless, 1acks the moral authority or legitimacy to command the respect of the people. Second, if we agree that elections are a sine qua non for democracy, their free and fair conduct is necessary to allow citizens to use elections as mechanisms of accountability.

Therefore, flawed elections weakens accounts for the tremendous loss of faith by the public in the electoral process and contribute to the erosion of confidence in elections  as the best means to bring about much desired democratic change (Kale, 2008). Flawed elections delegitimise the moral stand of society in the eyes of all, especially the young and impressionable.

Worse, if society’s youth in particular realise that the political leaders, role models, who speak in high sounding language about rigor and moralisation, "advanced democracy" and the rule of law, are, in fact, cheats, cheating and dishonesty become acceptable. Under these circumstances, crooks and the most corrupt are always the winners.  Under such a scenario, political space becomes chaotic; governance becomes elusive, unreal and a mirage in nature. It is unfortunate that our past election gives credence to this.

Instead of the electioneering process in Cameroon improving, it is deteriorating. Massive rigging of elections has what I term "rigging multiplier effect" on society. Anyone familiar with the organisation of previous elections in Cameroon has seen how, from 1992, rigging has grown steadily worse and more daring.  The result is the installation of dubious political leaders that have helped to promote corruption and unaccountability. 

In civilised societies, most will agree that elections represent the only legal way by which the people can change the direction of the affairs of the society from the situation they find unacceptable.  As a consequence, poorly performing politicians remain in office.

Also, where free and fair elections are no longer possible, civil conflicts and electoral violence become the only option. Like present day Cameroon, Kenya had presented a striking example of an African country that had long painted a picture of relative peace while camouflaging the political and economic fragility that gradually destroyed the country from within.

Lessons For Cameroonians

There is no doubt that Cameroonians have for long shouldered the burden of such malpractices. There is also no doubt that the onus for change in Cameroon lies squarely on our shoulders and the operational independence of ELECAM. A few years ago, John Attah Mills was sworn in as President of Ghana.  President Mills’ party, which was in the opposition, won a hard fought election.

Like previous organised elections in Cameroon, the election in Ghana had all the problems associated with Sub-Saharan African politics, namely; the deployment of cross-cutting but resilient issues of tension, conflicts, corruption, strong ethnic/tribal interests, money politics and partly the misuse of law enforcement, yet the will of the people prevailed. How? One man, Kwadoo Afari Gyam, the Chairman of Ghana Electoral Commission, refused to rig the vote.  

At the end of the day, credible and enduring institutions and great societies are built on the diligence, integrity and courage of ordinary men and women who understand that the future of their societies frequently depends on just one person here and there doing the right thing.

This is in accordance with Samuel Adam’s view that: "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority to set brushfires in people’s minds". That is the lesson that Cameroonians, Mr. Mohaman Sani Tanimou and ELECAM should take home.

*Founders’ Forum Fellow – American Society For Public Administration, Louisiana, USA

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