11 April 2012

Cameroon: Electoral Code - Consensus Prevails in Committee

Members of Parliament are preparing to examine the bill on the Electoral Code in plenary.

The bill on the electoral code that was examined by members of the Committee on Constitutional Laws of the National Assembly for two straight days in the ongoing April 2012 extraordinary session, may be adopted in a plenary sitting of the House on Friday, April 13, 2012.

The Committee adopted the 299-section bill after heated debates with MPs hammering on amendments to be made to certain key aspects and the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, René Emmanuel Sadi standing firm on government's position, although admitting amendments when necessary.

Speaking to the press on April 10 night after the bill was adopted in Committee, Minister Sadi described their debates as being profound, open and frank. He revealed that they arrived at a consensus that enabled both sides to come up with a good document. Discussions, he said, covered areas such as presidential election, Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) and deposits in the various elections.

Talking specifically about consensus, the Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Laws, Hon. Zondol Herssesse stated that government withdrew paragraph four of Section 161 of the draft Electoral Code which had been a bone of contention between government and the people's representatives. The paragraph that concerns the vacancy of the position of Members of Parliament stated that, "The seat in the National Assembly of any member or alternate who, during his term is expelled or resigns from his party, shall likewise become vacant."

The paragraph both sides agreed, is unconstitutional. Another hot point has been the deposits candidates for parliamentary and municipal council elections have to pay. Government proposed FCFA 5 million for each parliamentary candidate and FCFA 100,000 for each candidate for council elections. Information that filtered from the Committee indicates that the deposits for MPs have been reduced to FCFA 3 million and FCFA 50,000 for intending councillors. On a general note, MPs have mitigated views with regards to amendments to the code and await its final adoption in a plenary sitting. Many expressed the view that the Constitution ought to have first of all been amended to so as to enable proposed amendments on the presidential term of office and duration acceptable.

Some opposition political party and civil society leaders are vehemently opposed to the adoption of the bill on the electoral code. By mid-day yesterday, security was still tight around the Ngoa-Ekelle National Assembly Glass Palace. Sources stated that the leader of the Cameroon People's Party (CPP), Edith Kahbang Walla and other leaders made a foiled attempt to march to Parliament and to urge MPs not to adopt the bill, arguing that it disfavoured and disqualified many Cameroonians from running for positions in different elections.

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