Cameroonian voters complained of delays and general disorganisation in Sunday's election, where incumbent President Paul Biya is expected to win a fourth term and extend his 29-year rule.
REUTERS - Voters in Cameroon faced delays and organisational snags in an election on Sunday where President Paul Biya is expected to extend his 29-year rule over the central African state against a fragmented opposition.
The one-round vote comes just weeks after a smooth handover of power in Zambia showed that Africa can deliver peaceful political change through the ballot box.
But with Biya, 78, seen keeping his place among the clutch of African leaders in power for decades, the main question in the oil-producing nation is whether the election will pass smoothly after rivals alleged the vote is skewed against them.
Election observers said early voting had begun peacefully but cited delays at some polling stations and irregularities, such as some voters being allowed to jump the queue.
"We’re a bit concerned, there seems to be separate treatment for VIP voters, " Commonwealth observer mission leader Frederick Mitchell, the Bahamas’ ex-foreign minister, said by telephone.
Samuel Enyegue, a resident of the capital Yaounde, was one of a number of voters interviewed by Reuters who said he had been unable to cast his vote.
"This is pure rubbish," said Enyegue outside a polling station in the Biyem-Assi district. " I cannot understand why I registered but my name is not on the (voters') list."
Biya's main rival John Fru Ndi of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) said a surplus of voting slips meant some had voted twice in certain parts of the country and said election body Elecam would be blamed for the "disorder and confusion."
Casting his vote in Yaounde, Biya asked for patience.
"It (Elecam) is a young organisation ... I'm just asking that there should be indulgence in any eventual imperfection. There was no intention to fraud," he said.
Aside from its oil, Cameroon is the region’s main maritime entry point and breadbasket, supplying Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic and Gabon. It hosts the Chad-Cameroon pipeline and shelters refugees from the region’s conflicts.
Biya faces 22 candidates including Fru Ndi, and Adamou Ndam Njoya of the Cameroon Democratic Union (UDC).
In the last election in 2004, Biya scored just over 70 percent, while his closest rival, Fru Ndi, took 17 percent.
In 2008 a move by Biya to scrap term limits, and anger over food prices, led to street protests in which more than 100 people died, but for most of the past three decades there has seen relative stability in a turbulent region.
However, one issue which has not gone away is a separatist movement in the south and last week security forces detained more than 200 people after they held a banned rally calling for the right to secede.
Biya’s goal is to set Cameroon on the path to being an emerging nation such as Mexico and Malaysia by 2035.
Yet Cameroon's media and opposition have criticised Biya for lax governance, allowing corruption, red tape and nepotism to fester. Average income per head stands at an annual $2,000 -- higher than most of the region—but the IMF has described its forecast 3.8 percent growth this year as below potential.
Some observers speculate that Biya, if reelected, will use his new term to arrange a handover of power to an anointed successor. But his domination of the local political scene means there is currently no obvious candidate for that.
Polling is scheduled to end at 6.00 p.m. (1700 GMT) but a ban on the announcement of preliminary results mean it could take days for the final tally to be published.
Date created : 2011-10-09