Low turnout expected in Cameroon presidential election
Out of a population of 24 million people, only 6.5 million Cameroonians have registered to vote, according to the election authority. A low turnout is expected in Sunday's presidential election.
ّIran Press- Africa/ Polls opened at 8:00 local (0700GMT) across much of the country including areas in the restive English-speaking regions. Security has been heightened with armed personnel deployed outside most polling stations, africanews reported.
Of the Cameroon’s 24 million people, only 6.5 million were registered as of Oct. 1, according to the election authority.
A victory for Biya, who has ruled since 1982, would usher in a seventh term for the 85-year-old and see him stay until at least the age of 92, bucking a tentative trend in Africa where many countries have installed presidential term limits.
It would maintain a long held status quo in the oil and cocoa producing Central African country where, despite relative economic stability and growth of over 4 percent a year since Biya was last elected in 2011, many of its 24 million citizens live in deep poverty. Most have only known one president.
Of Biya’s biggest challenges has been the year-old secessionist uprising in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions that has cost hundreds of lives and forced thousands to flee either to the French-speaking regions or into neighboring Nigeria.
It further complicates Cameroon’s security mix, that is, for a country that is still battling Boko Haram insurgents in its Far North region. A new security region was set up in Bamenda in what was seen as a security solution to the separatists.
The odds, and history, are against the opposition, including the main candidate, Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front. The opposition also faces the problem of voter apathy from a population resigned to a continuation of Biya’s long rule.
“We want a different president,” said a teacher to Reuters in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon. “There are no roads, there is corruption. But only 6 million people are registered to vote. We are really tired. Thirty-six years is too long and things are getting worse.”
The African Union and other organizations are monitoring Sunday’s vote, but opposition candidates have already complained of efforts to fix the election in Biya’s favor.
Separatists have vowed to stop the polls from taking place in the English-speaking regions, home to 5 million people, about one-fifth of the population. Residents in those areas told Reuters that they would not vote anyway because of the insecurity.
On July, Cameroon’s president Paul Biya issued a decree to postpone the presidential election on October 7, due to the worsening security situation in the Anglophone regions. He said, the inhabitants of Buea, the capital of the Southwest region were still confined to their homes for fear of going out after witnessing gunfire in the morning between soldiers and Anglophone separatists.