9 August 2007

Cameroon: Triumph of Democracy

The verdict of the July 22, 2007 municipal elections is now known. A breakdown of the results shows that of a total of 360 municipal councils in contest, the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) captured the lion's share of 310. The Social Democratic Front (SDF) came a distant second with 21 councils.

The National Union for Democracy and Progress (NUDP) won 13 councils, the Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU) 8, the "Mouvement Démocratique pour la defense de la République" (MDR) 5, the "Union des Populations du Cameroun" 2 and the National Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ANDP) 1.

A comparative analysis of the results in both 2002 and 2007 reveals that of the more than 200 parties authorised, only six have been able to make their presence felt on the national political scene. In 2002, the CPDM still emerged victorious grabbing 269 councils of the 338 in the competition. The SDF remains the most powerful opposition party although it has continued to witness dwindling fortunes as the years go by. For example, the SDF won 36 councils in 2002 which was much better than it did this time. The CDU, NUDP and UPC have remained permanent in the race with fluctuating performances.

But besides the performances of various political parties at the just-ended elections into municipal councils, there is another aspect that drives home a special lesson. The July 22 polls saw an unusually strong showing by women. In Menji, Bamenda, Douala, Yaounde and Bangangte women successfully got elected as mayors or assistant mayors. In fact many of them even headed council lists at the elections. Their number rose from eight to more than 20 in the national territory which represents some 18%. Although this percentage falls far short of their demographic weight, it is no doubt a sign that both the women and the electorate are now prepared to give the women a chance in the management of public affairs. The change of attitude could also be attributed to the vast campaign of information and sensitization by non-governmental organizations like the "More Women in Politics", coordinated by Dr Justine Diffo.

The voters at local level used the opportunity to either approve the performance of those who managed the councils or sanction those who failed to meet the aspirations of the people. Hence, the awareness by those who are chosen as mayors for the next five years that they will face the people again at the end of their mandate to give an account of their stewardship. Political parties which have won the municipal councils this time around have a duty to monitor and supervise the performance of their representatives in local government if they hope to be voted back to office come 2012. The councilors and mayors must bear in mind that their duty is to serve the public and not their selfish interests. How well the various political parties will fare five years depends on how they take off at local council level right now. For, it is said that to whom much is given, much is expected.

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