More elections in Cameroon. Does anyone care?

Paul-Biya-recent

Nearly 20 years after deciding that Cameroon needed a Senate, President Paul Biya recently announced that the country’s first Senate elections will be held on April 14, 2013. He made the surprise announcement at the end of February, leaving little time to organize a credible election.

Voters will elect 70 senators, while Biya will hand-pick the remaining 30, according the presidential decree read over state radio.

The SDF, Cameroon’s main opposition party, loudly denounced the elections and pledged a boycott, then in a awkward volte face several days later, agreed to participate. SDF party members now say the party will participate in the Senate elections as it does not think Biya, 80, will make it to the end of his term.

According to the Cameroonian constitution, the head of the Senate would assume the interim in the event of a mid-term presidential vacancy.

Biya’s planned senatorial elections seem to indicate that he is interested in perpetuating the status quo of Cameroonian politics into the post-Biya era.

Cameroon’s New Senate: An (Anti)Democratic Anachronism, by Dibussi Tande, does a wonderful job of showing how a little more democracy (the creation of an elected Senate) is, in fact, nothing of the sort: “The Biya regime has defended the creation of this second legislative body, which many consider an extravagance, by arguing that it will be a major boost for Cameroon’s democracy in terms of popular participation, strengthened checks on the executive branch, a less hazy separation of powers, and increased political transparency. From all indications, however, this is mere wishful thinking…”

As Tande writes, the senatorial elections are primarily an exercise in stacking the deck in favor of the ruling party that will create “a gilded retirement chamber for former high ranking government officials, and a prebend to traditional chiefs, business magnates and other individuals who have sworn an oath of fealty to the Biya regime.”

Read Tande’s piece here: Cameroon’s New Senate: An (Anti)Democratic Anachronism

 

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