Cameroon vote marred by fraud, opposition says
Cameroon's main opposition party described the country’s presidential election “a fraudulent mess” Monday as polling officials counted votes that looked certain to extend incumbent Paul Biya's 29-year rule.
REUTERS - Cameroon's main opposition party alleged on Monday that a presidential election in the central African state had been marred by fraud and said it was gathering evidence for a formal complaint.
Veteran President Paul Biya, who is widely tipped to win a new term, has acknowledged there may have been "imperfections" in the staging of Sunday's single-round vote but denied there had been fraud.
"Our lawyers are already collecting evidence to show that there was fraud everywhere," Elizabeth Tamajong, Secretary- General of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), told Reuters by telephone.
Accounts that some voters cast two ballots while others did not vote at all risk undermining the credibility of the poll in the oil-producing nation, weeks after a poll in Zambia showed peaceful change through the ballot box is possible in Africa.
Biya, 78, has already served 29 years as president and his bid was made possible only after he scrapped presidential term limits in 2008 -- a move which added to street anger over food prices to spark riots in which more than 100 died.
Aside from its oil, Cameroon is the region's main maritime entry point and breadbasket, supplying Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic and Gabon. Yet its economic growth is below average for Africa and critics cite democratic failings.
Sunday's polling ended peacefully but power supply problems meant the count in some districts was conducted by candlelight, the flashlights of mobile phones or, as at one district in the capital Yaounde, the headlights of a motorbike. Results could take as long as two weeks to emerge.
Tamajong said several SDF officials were prevented from entering polling stations in Biya's Centre Province stronghold.
After voting ended, a Reuters reporter in Yaounde saw 19 polling stations where ballots were being counted without the required presence of candidates' representatives.
SDF candidate John Fru Ndi, Biya's main rival, said on Sunday that a surplus of voting slips meant some had voted twice in certain parts of the country and warned election body Elecam would be blamed for the "disorder and confusion".
Authorities on Monday played down the scale of the problems.
"The entire process...was conducted in a calm, serene and peaceful atmosphere and under satisfactory security conditions," Samuel Fonkam Azu'u, chairman of the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) election body told a news conference on Monday.
"Nevertheless Elections Cameroon will draw the necessary lessons in order to better organise future polls," he added.
State media hailed a mass turnout but there was little evidence of queues despite the fact that many polling stations failed to open at 8.00 am local (0700 GMT) as scheduled.
Biya faced 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.