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Prolongation Of Mandates Of MPs And Councillors

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Government’s bill to extend the mandate of MPs and that of councillors was adopted during a plenary session of the National Assembly on April 2. The bill, which prolongs the mandate of MPs by six months, is renewable. But it has been learnt that MPs had, at the level of the Constitutional Laws Committee, unanimously proposed that the mandate should instead be extended by two years. That is from August 21, 2012- August 21, 2014.

Barrister Emmanuel Mbiam, a CPDM MP from Ntem Valley Constituency in the South Region, who is a key member of the Constitutional Laws Committee, admitted in a programme over CRTV that all MPs wanted a two-year extension of their mandate. He said they felt that it would be good to give Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, adequate time to put in place the biometric system, and carryout the recompilation of the electoral register.

Hon. Mbiam argued that while, in principle, the biometric system of registration is faster, there is a big problem as was seen in the past years, with getting Cameroonians of voting age to massively go out and register. He said it will thus be better to give a long time for the voters registration exercise. Mbiam also insisted that there is no provision in the 2012 State budget for the putting in place of the biometric system, and that it is only at the next budgetary session in December, that MPs will vote a budget containing that allocation.

Indefinite Postponement of Legislative Elections
One major criticism which the bill has drawn from opposition parties and political activists is that the CPDM Government has once more left the public in the dark, as to the period when the next Legislative and Municipal elections will hold. This is because the mandate of MPs has been extended indefinitely, since the bill talks of a six-month extension, renewable. Though there was no electoral calendar in the country before this extension came up, political parties had for long been working on the facts. It was held that since the mandate of the present MPs was due to end on August 21, 2012, the Legislative elections was to hold either in June, July or early August, 2012. That was why political parties like the SDF had early this year already scheduled its primaries. The CPDM had scheduled its primaries for this April. But considering that the bill that extended the mandate of MPs does not have a limitation on the number of times for which the extension can be renewed, the situation has only worsened. No party is now certain when the next Legislative election will hold.      

Period Of Extension
There is clearly a difference between ELECAM and political parties on the one hand, and MPs on the other hand, when it comes to the issue of the period of the extension of the mandate of the MPs. SDF Scribe, Dr. Mrs Elizabeth Tamanjong, has repeatedly insisted that with a biometric system, the estimated 10 million Cameroonians of voting age can be registered in a couple of weeks. ELECAM has also been saying that the recompilation of the voters’ register can possibly be done in a few months. The Southwest member of ELECAM, Prof. Dorothy Njeuma, maintained the position of the institution when she reportedly declared to the press in Bamenda that ELECAM can meet the deadline for registration, if the provider of the biometric equipments delivers on time. But interestingly enough, it is instead the MPs who are saying that ELECAM will need a longer period for voters’ registration.

More Money For MPs And Mayors
Observers say what MPs are not saying is that the extension of their mandate will enable them make more money in parliament, through their emoluments or salaries, allowances and other numerous fallouts. Many of the present MPs who have failed to live up to the expectation of the population of their different constituencies and political parties, know that they will likely not return to parliament after the next Legislative elections. So, most MPs and Mayors prefer a longer extension of their mandate. 

“Gov’t Might Organise Senatorial Elections”.
The National President of PADDEC, Barrister Jean de Dieu Momo, has said while the focus of opposition parties are on the next Legislative and Municipal elections, Senatorial elections might come up during this period of the extension of the mandate of MPs. In a chat with The Post in Douala on April 3, the PADDEC leader disclosed that he has learnt that President Biya has been advised to organise elections for the Senate as it will favour the CPDM which enjoys majority in the councils.

According to the current constitution of the country, Senators are not elected by universal suffrage as are the Head of State, MPs and councillors. Rather, Senators are to be elected by councillors. This means that the recompilation of the electoral register can not in principle obstruct the holding of a Senatorial election in the country.

One group of people who are definitely not happy with the extension of the mandate of the present MPs are the aspirants who have been bracing up to knock out the incumbents either at the primaries or at the elections proper.                         

Barring Ordinary Cameroonians From Elective Posts
Political parties in Douala wasted no time in reacting to the Government’s decision to raise the caution to be paid by candidates for elections. The parties felt that the increases, which Government wants to institute for caution fees for elections, are too high. MANIDEM, for example, on April 3, lashed out that the CPDM Government wants to bar the way for ordinary Cameroonian citizens from running for elections.

First Published in The Post print edition no. 1333

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