Elections, ELECAM and gender politics

Elections, ELECAM and gender politics Law no. 92/002 of 14 August 1992 to lay down the conditions governing the election of municipal councilors stated in section 3(2) that “Each list shall take into consideration the various sociological components of the constituency concerned.” The law governing the election of parliamentarians had the same provision. There was virtually no mention of gender in the laws; it was left to the political parties to act at their pleasure.

  Part V of the 2012 electoral code relating to provisions specific to the election of members of parliament states in section 151 (3) that “Each list shall take into consideration the various sociological components of the constituency concerned. It shall also take into consideration gender aspects.” Part VI of the code on provisions specific to the election of municipal councilors states in section 171(3) that “Each list shall take into consideration: the various sociological components of the constituency concerned; (and) gender aspects.”  

Political parties also have their specific rules and regulations to take care of gender issues in the politics and internal management of the parties. How much these meet the expectations of the women is another matter. The clauses on “sociological composition” introduced in the first versions of the electoral laws, and in the present electoral code, are vague because they do not prescribe numbers or proportions. The imprecision caused opposition political parties dearly in the past because since no numbers or proportions were prescribed in the electoral law, the proportions and numbers were decided on a subjective basis by the administrative authorities; and later by NEO and the administration!

The rejection of the SDF council list in Tiko in 2002 – like many others – was on the argument that it did not “take into consideration the various sociological components.” On appeal to NEO, NEO’s opinion was that there were “only 7 indigenous” candidates in the list, OPINION therefore the list was finally rejected! Probably because many CPDM “big men” were from Fako Division, the administrative authorities indulged in some very uncouth gymnastics. They lured indigenous people away from the lists of opposition political parties in order to use the provision on “sociological composition” as an excuse to reject the lists. The strategy was used to reject the lists of opposition political parties in cosmopolitan areas like Fako, Meme, Moungo, Wouri, etc., most of the time, not due to the fault of the parties but to the vagueness of the provision of the law and the propensity of administrative authorities to use it to the advantage of barons of the CPDM. The following letter from the Secretary of the SDF in West Coast, Limbe, Mr. Kaba Sinsah Moses, on 23 May 2002 related to the SDF list for the 2002 Municipal elections in West Coast makes the point: 

 “Two South Westerners were on the 19 May 2002 kidnapped by the district head, West Coast from Sanje Village and taken to the SDO Fako and to the Army Camp to resign from the SDF list. Penda Emmanuel Wokonyi and Ekelenge Robert, all indigenes of Bamboko in the West Coast District were asked by the SDO Fako in the Army Camp to write resignation letters in order that the SDF list should be rejected and to take home 200.000 FCFA each.” 

It is unfortunate that in spite of many challenges filed in various courts in the country for the courts to say what the provisions on taking into consideration the various “sociological components” really meant, the courts failed or refused to give a clear ruling on the important matter. One can only hope that this time around ELECAM will remember that the law does not provide numbers or proportions. The provisions in the laws should not be turned into tools to satisfy selfish interests and assuage the tainted egos of barons of the CPDM in some constituencies, like was the case in the past.

Women and men may all be human beings, but by nature, they are different. This is why they are not lumped together in the Olympics to run races together; there are always female races and male races. There are always female boxing leagues and male boxing leagues; female football leagues and male football leagues, and so on. Because of such differences between men and women, there are various ways in which political parties usually ensure some sort of gender equilibrium in multi-constituency elections. Some encourage the investiture of women in sure constituencies, as the Labour party of the UK usually does. Some impose women in some constituencies, as the CPDM usually does; others like the SDF impose women in spite of their poor performance in joint primaries.

I have always argued that for parties that choose candidates through primaries, there should be two streams of primaries in each constituency: one for the male candidates and the other for the female candidates, with the same electoral colleges. This will give the investiture commissions the free hand to choose from the male and female lists at will, and leave very little disgruntlement in the field. It will also invariably induce women to participate more actively in politics in the knowledge that they will not be bullied to submission by male chauvinists.

 In spite of the tough environmental conditions imposed by the rains, and the tough financial requirements imposed by laws revised over, and over again since 1990 to exclude the poor (caution of candidatures increased from 50.000 FCFA in 1992 to1.000.000 FCFA in 2013), opposition political parties have done their best to submit lists to ELECAM offices.

ELECAM told Cameroonians at the close of registration at the end of April 2013 that they had some 5 million people registered. One expected that after going through the various verification processes and weeding out double and multiple registrations, the figure would change considerably and mistakes would be reduced to a minimum. It is interesting that we are being told that as many electoral cards as the figure that was announced at the end of April have or will be produced meaning that the raw list from the field was not touched. Further, we have heard the ELECAM chair confessing that there are mistakes in some electoral cards (spelling of names, etc) but the mistakes will not affect the possibility of casting a vote on Polling Day.

In the screening of the lists of candidatures submitted by political parties, ELECAM should not give the impression that if the electoral cards with mistakes being freely distributed in the field were produced by political parties, ELECAM would have rejected them! ELECAM should scrutinize the lists of candidates with compassion, and ignore little errors of spelling, little changes in order of names, and other such little mistakes. ELECAM will not be judged on the number of lists it rejects on flimsy and subjective reasons, but on how much they ensure a free and fair campaign and the integrity of the ballot box on Polling Day.

ELECAM will be judged on how much they act like the referee that ensures a level playing field for all


By Prof. Tazoacha Asonganyi (former Secretary General of the SDF party)


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