Single Ballot Will Limit Electoral Fraud – MPs

ELECAM Head Office Yaounde

ELECAM Head Office Yaounde

Members of Parliament, MPs, have expressed the need for the single ballot voting system to be instituted in all elections in Cameroon. They argue that such a move will limit electoral fraud and corruption.

This was one of the issues that came up during the plenary meeting of the extra-ordinary session of parliament that ran from May 2 to 4, 2013. The main point on the agenda was the study of a bill tabled by President Paul Biya extending the mandate of MPs for two more months beginning May 22, 2013. It should be noted that this is the third time the mandate of MPs which expired in 2012 is being extended.

During a question and answer session chaired by House Speaker, Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, shortly before the adoption of the bill, Hon. P.C. Fonso, while asking his questions, described the blatant vote buying by CPDM barons at the last April 14 Senate elections in the Northwest Region as a scandalous corrupt practice. Hon. Cyprian Awudu Mbaya, on his part, stated that councillors were caged and bribed by CPDM personalities for sums ranging from FCFA 500 000 to FCFA 1 million in the Northwest Region to vote for the CPDM list.

“I am not against people winning at elections but when such victory comes through corruption, it must be decried and perpetrators punished according to the law,” he maintained. “We cannot continue to talk about the fight against corruption in this country and, then, turn around to pretend. All high personalities of this nation, especially those of the Northwest, were seen in the Region engaging in open corruption during the Senate elections.

According to Hon. Joseph Banadzem, high government officials and traditional rulers of the Northwest Region bought and manipulated the consciences of councillors to vote for the CPDM. He reiterated that councillors were caged in hotels and private homes for days thereby blocking other competing parties from campaigning to them, a practice which, he said, is grossly at variance with democratic norms.

Hon. Banadzem talked of a situation where traditional rulers, who are not touched by commoners in the Northwest Region, took off dresses exposing their navels and forcing councillors to touch them and swear that they will vote only for the CPDM list after collecting the money. “Since traditional rulers to whom we have shown respect have decided to destroy the society, we are ready to help them in that destruction,” he said.

Hon. Jean Jacques Ekindi, the Chairman of MP party, in his intervention, said the law states that mandates of MPs can only be extended perpetually if the country is in crisis. He noted that that is not the case in Cameroon. He said such extensions of mandates of MPs that have expired disrupt the smooth functioning of institutions.

He also told the Vice Prime Minister in charge of Relations with Assemblies, Amadou Ali, that it is the constitutional council – in this case the Supreme Court – that tables bills for study and not Biya even though he (Biya) may initiate them. He queried why ELECAM has decided to deprive Cameroonian citizens of the right to vote by suspending voter registration in contravention of the law. Ekindi observed that such a move simply tells the world that ELECAM operates above the law.

Most of the MPs who took the floor argued that, for corrupt practices to be checked at elections, the single ballot system must be adopted. An example cited was that of what happened in Wum, Menchum Division, where the CPDM scored a 100 percent at the Senate elections. It was alleged that SDF ballots were not found in the waste basket because councillors took them out after voting to exchange for huge sums of money.

The MPs also argued that single ballots would save billions of FCFA of State funds.
Other flaws highlighted concerning the Senate elections were: the closing down of polls before 6pm which went against the law; the publication of voters’ lists following party adhesion instead of in alphabetical order as stated by the electoral code; meddling in elections by administrative officials and the need for redistribution of parliamentary seats in constituencies following the recent population census results.

In response to the questions, Amadou Ali said the law stipulates how ELECAM should work and if any violations are noted, then, they should be held responsible. Speaking on the extension of mandates of MPs, Ali said the move came after recommendations from national and international NGOs and political parties calling for biometric registration. He said the registration exercise, which lasted for six months, only succeeded in registering voters far below the projected 7 million by ELECAM.

Referring on the issue of the redistribution of parliamentary seats, Amadou Ali noted that the law gives the President the right to create special constituencies if the need arises. He said if some people consider such a move as illegal, then, the decree should be challenged in a court of law.

Amadou Ali said the state of development of Cameroon and the level of education of its citizens, who constitute the electorate, does not call for the adoption of a single ballot system now. He hoped, however, that, one day, Cameroon would come to it.

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

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