Cameroon has reportedly held its first ever regional elections, this according to Al Jazeera. This comes after national protests erupted in September against current President Paul Biya. Cameroonian government reportedly stated that the regional elections, held this past Sunday, are a democratic correction that will ensure greater political autonomy. However, opposition parties boycotted the elections and have reportedly called the process a ruse to strengthen Biya’s political rule.
According to Africa CGTN, polls opened on Sunday morning in the capital of Douala at 08:00AM. A reported 24 000 electoral college comprised of traditional chiefs and regional delegates were expected to vote. The election determines 900 regional councillors in Cameroon’s 10 regions distributed at 90 councillors per region. Biya stated that regional elections are a way to decentralise government by fulfilling a law that was passed in 1996, while he was president, but was never acted on. Coincidentally the elections comes at a time when the overwhelming majority of the regional electoral college are Biya supporters.
Cameroon’s two main opposition parties, Maurice Kamto’s Movement for the Rebirth of Cameroon (MRC) and the Social Democratic Front (SDF) boycotted the polls. The parties’ boycott appeared to have no effect on the elections which reportedly went on smoothly according to Africa CGTN. Kamto lead nation wide anti-Biya protests in September.
Regional governments will have authority of over infrastructure and regional matters but will have no say in national laws or matters of the Senate in Yaounde. Biya reportedly implemented the election to quell separatist violence which began in 2016 and became increasingly violent in 2017. The country has a long running conflict between English speakers and French speakers. A largely French-speaking country, protests have been rising from English speakers who have demanded the right to work in English. According to VoA, one voter fatality has reportedly been caused by separatist forces in Cameroon’s English-speaking Northwest region. Election results have yet to be officially released. Paul Biya at 87-years-old has been president for 40 years.