New Electoral Code Prescribes Single Ballot Paper

A draft bill on the harmonisation of Cameroon’s electoral code, to be tabled at the National Assembly, has prescribed a single ballot paper for Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

 According to a source at the National Assembly, the bill is tailored to hearken to the demands of the various stakeholders in the electoral process.

 

If the National Assembly finally adopts the bill, it will mark an unprecedented dispensation in Cameroon’s electoral system. For one thing, the demand for a two-round Presidential election, the single ballot paper, as well as the biometric registration system, among other issues, have been animating debates that border on electoral reforms over the years.

 

Observers hold that if such reforms are well implemented, Cameroon’s electoral system will gain more credibility, garner the confidence of the people and reduce the current voter apathy that has, more or less, marred elections over the years. In tandem with these aspirations, the election management body, ELECAM, has begun scanning through the files of some five organisations to see which one is the best to carry out the biometric registration of workers.

 

 

Mandate Extension

 

As the electoral reforms are being put in place, the National Assembly has adopted a bill, extending its mandate for six months.  According to the explanatory note of the bill, the extension of the mandate is to give the authorities enough time to implement reforms in the electoral process.

 

“To ensure the effective holding of the next legislative election under normal conditions of transparency, it is necessary to extend the term of office of the Members of Parliament,” further reads the draft Law no. 908/PJL/AN. In order to buttress reasons for the extension, the law states that the compilation of electoral registers consists in restarting the process all over and requires sufficient time to register as many citizens as possible.

 

It holds that the extension has equally been necessitated by the introduction, for the first time, of the biometric system in the country’s electoral process and that it requires proper monitoring.

 As required by the law, the Supreme Court, sitting in for the Constitutional Council, had approved the extension on March 13. It equally stated that the extension was justifiable because the authorities need time to recompile the electoral registers and introduce the biometric system.

 

Section one of the Law reads: “The term of office of the Members of Parliament is hereby extended for a period of six months, renewable if need be, with effect from August 21, 2012”. This means that the legislative election has been postponed indefinitely. The law states also that the extension is renewable if need arises. But it is silent as to how many times such an extension can be renewed.

 

While commenting on the law, human rights lawyer, Barrister Honore Nagm, told The Post that the law has a void that gives room for arbitrariness. To him, the law should be amended to state in very unequivocal terms the maximum period that an extension of the MPs mandate can take in order not to give them a blank cheque. The law is equally silent as to whether the mandate of Councilors will equally be extended or not. Yet, it is obvious that the very reasons for the extension of the mandate of Members of Parliament hold sway for the Councilors.

By Yerima Kini Nsom

 

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