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SDF Promises To Make ELECAM Truly Independent 

By Edith Lukong — SDF members of the National Assembly have expressed their determination to transform Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, into a genuine National Independent Electoral Commission, NIEC.

This is contained in a joint public declaration for the formation of a parliamentary group by SDF members of the National Assembly. The declaration, signed November 12, carries the electoral list of the membership of the Parliamentary Group and a programme of political action focused on the transformation of ELECAM into a veritable independent electoral commission as well as ideals for Cameroon to triumph.

According to the declaration, the SDF set for itself two objectives when it decided to send its members into the National Assembly after the flawed legislative elections of 1997. They include “the adoption of legislation instituting a NIEC for the conduct of elections in Cameroon and to put an end to the management of electoral process by the Ministry of

Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, MINATD, which had, over the years, not only demonstrated its incapacity to conduct free and fair elections but instituted a culture of fraud at every stage of the electoral process” and to “prove to Cameroonians and to the world at large that it was possible for Parliament to check corruption and the embezzlement of public funds”.
The declaration points out SDF’s contribution to the putting in place of ELECAM and the biometric system.

It indicates that the SDF deposited a draft proposal for a NIEC. After two weeks in the street, the President of the Republic sent a bill to be studied which turned out to be the mutilated version of the then Senegalese National Elections Observatory. This was passed into law (creating the National Elections Observatory, NEO) but it subsequently suffered further amendment after the 2002 twin elections as a result of its defective nature, coupled with the machinations of the MINATD.

The struggle for a better NEO led to the creation of ELECAM; and it is the goal of the SDF Parliamentary Group to improve on it through legislation. Emphasising the need of an authentic NIEC, the SDF parliamentary group leader, Hon. Dr. Joseph Banadzem, said such a commission would bring free, fair and transparent elections. The reason why, he said, focus on the political action programme is directed towards having a genuine elections commission.

Highlighting the political action programme, the group leader said the adoption of a single ballot is a major pre-occupation; because it would go a step further to reduce fraud and corruption during elections. He said multiple ballots increase the rate of corruption and vote peddling or selling as it provides the chance for corrupt voters to return with the ballots of other candidates as evidence that they voted for particular candidates, to get their booties. 

He said a single ballot would also help to avoid problems of ballot shortages for some candidates. He added that multiple ballots become complex and tedious for voters if many candidates (about 30) have to participate. The advantages of the single ballot over the multiple ones, he explained, makes the adoption of the single ballot paper SDF’s fundamental request.

Extension of Biometric System

Another request includes the stretching of the biometric system to cover the whole electoral process. Hon. Banadzem said the current biometric system involves just the registration. Extending it to the proclamation of results, he said, the system would become more effective.

Rationalization of ELECAM’s hierarchical structure and enhancing its financial autonomy is another factor in the political action programme. He highlighted that the functions of the Directorate General and President of ELECAM have to be redefined. He said there is some sort of conflict between the Directorate General and the President. He said, whereas many think that the President is empowered to take decisions on many issues, it is the Directorate General that has absolute powers in taking many decisions in ELECAM.

He said the Directorate General is empowered to organise the whole electoral processes. He cited the finances of the body that is managed by the Directorate General. He said the SDF wants the board of ELECAM to be headed by the President and the Directorate General acting as the Secretary executing the orders and directives of the President. If these major reforms are implemented, he said, the elections body would be more effective.

First published in The Post print edition no 01480

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