Observers Cite ‘Serious Problems’ in Cameroon Election
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) _ Foreign observers on Wednesday cited irregularities in Cameroon’s first democratic presidential election, which the government says President Paul Biya appears to have won.
Biya, who has ruled the country since November 1982, could win a third five-year term without gaining a majority against the divided opposition. The Biya-controlled legislature rewrote election laws three weeks ago to eliminate a runoff.
″On election day the delegation witnessed a number of serious problems,″ a delegation sent by the Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute said in a statement.
The 19-member group also criticized the government for refusing to allow voters to register after March.
The opposition has claimed widespread fraud in voting last Sunday, and says the government has delayed releasing the vote count to give it time to rig the results.
The National Vote Commission is expected to present final results to the Supreme Court on October 25.
Results released Tuesday had shown opposition candidate John Fru Ndi gaining on Biya. A government count released Wednesday gave Biya 979,300 votes compared with 713,626 for Fru Ndi.
Fru Ndi’s camp released its own figures showing him leading by at least a 20-to-1 margin in his northwestern stronghold.
Some 4.5 million people were registered to vote in Sunday’s election.
Biya’s popularity has declined in recent years as the country’s oil- dependent economy has sagged. He cracked down on dissent after a failed 1984 coup attempt, but strikes and widespread unrest forced him to legalize the political opposition last year.
But the opposition failed to rally behind a single candidate, and this may have been the decisive factor in Biya’s apparent victory Sunday.