Legislative elections in Cameroon will be repeated in some constituencies after a court nullified results in parts of the Anglophone region.
The verdict on Tuesday by the Cameroon Constitutional Council came as authorities tried to give legitimacy to the February 9 polls which have been criticised.
The Council is a quasi-judicial body that regulates the conduct of presidential, parliamentary as well as referendum elections in Cameroon. It ruled on Tuesday that the conduct of elections on some constituencies failed to meet constitutional requirements.
Opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) had challenged the elections and asked the Council to nullify the entire results.
The SDF had said voting in those areas was marred by “flagrant irregularities and malpractices” committed by the Ministry of Territorial Administration, poll management agency, Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) and the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM). The court found sufficient evidence to support the claim thus annulling the election and ordering a re-run.
The re-run shall be held between 20 and 40 days from the decision date, according to the electoral law of the country.
“People thought that the Constitutional Council cannot do justice, but I want to say that when petitions that reflect the laws that we have and are done in accordance with the prescriptions of the laws, the Constitutional Council will have no other choice than to uphold such petitions,” SDF national legal adviser and lead defense council, Hon Barrister Joseph Mbah Ndam said.
The deputy secretary general of the Central Committee of the CPDM, Gregoire Owona said the ruling party is “a little frustrated” by the verdict but will respect it and immediately start preparing for the rerun which “we hope to win again.”
The council that began meeting on Monday examined 40 petitions filed by 15 political parties calling for a complete or partial cancellation of the election, but only that of the SDF was successful.
The decision to reorganise elections in the ten constituencies in the Northwest and one in the Southwest contradicts post-election declarations Erik Essousse, director general of elections at ELECAM and Paul Atanga Nji, Minister of Territorial Administration that there was no major incident likely to disturb the conduct of the polls nationwide.
Over 6,800,000 voters were registered for the elections, including more than 970,000 from the English-speaking regions, representing 14 percent of the total registered electoral population but observers said the vote was marred by low voter turnout.
The AU observer mission noted in its preliminary statement that it “witnessed low numbers of people showing up to cast their votes throughout the Election Day.” The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon made a similar declaration.
Armed separatists had vowed to disrupt the election and kill anyone who is seen voting in the troubled regions, but prior to the vote, Yaoundé deployed additional troops to ensure the serenity of the process and security of voters.
President Paul Biya’s Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) that won over 80 percent of the 360 municipal councils in the country is expected to also win an overwhelming majority of seats in the 180-member Parliament despite the re-run.
Opposition leader, Prof Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) who has continued claims he won the 2018 presidential elections but he victory was stolen by incumbent Biya withdrew his party from the vote saying the election will not be free and fair under current electoral law.