Cameroon: Electoral Registers - Reasons for Voters Reticence

opinion

13 juil. 2021 12:16

Amongst the various reasons are voter's apathy, limited communication from stakeholders and the current context of the health crisis.

Electoral registers remain open nationwide with citizens of voting age who meet the eligibility conditions encouraged to have their names enlisted. The law stipulates that electoral registers shall be permanent and the annual revision process is in accordance to Sections 74 and 75 of the Electoral Code. Accordingly, these registers are opened every January 1st and closed every August 31st, except in a situation such as the convening of the electoral college by the President of the Republic. Unfortunately, voter registration in recent times is not reflective of the demographic devidence of the country. Several reasons account for the low turnout.

Voter Apathy

This is a situation where eligible voters do not participate in public elections. Alienation and voter fatigue are the two primary causes of voter apathy. In Cameroon, those of voting age who have not had their names enlisted blame it on time. There are either students or employees (skilled and unskilled labourers), whose timetables are not friendly with the working hours of Elections Cameroon. They are either in the classroom studying or at the workplace and shuttling to an ELECAM registration center and back during break periods is not possible. Unfortunately, all parties close almost at the same time, making voter registration turnout low. On the other hand, some persons of voting age actually have themselves enlisted on the electoral registers but do not pick up their voter's cards and therefore cannot partake in the electoral process. Such actions are caused mostly by geographical mobility of labour.

Limited Communication

Inadequate publicity on the importance of getting registered and participating in an election seems to be negatively affecting the total output. Until recently, Elections Cameroon used mainly traditional media to reach the public on its activities. For about a year, following the hacking on their social media account, the elections management body was absent on social media. The Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tiktok accounts of ELECAM were on June 22, 2021 relaunched after about a year on blackout. This left its online followers lost and discouraged. With the relaunch of these online platforms, communication on the electoral process, it is hoped, will be provided detail, thereby boosting the registration figures before the close of the registers.

Lukewarm Participation From Stakeholders

Key partners in the electoral process such as political parties and civil society organisations are seemingly participating in an unenthusiastic manner in the exercise. Besides their statutory participation in the electoral revision commission, most stakeholders are most actively only during an electoral year. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, field rallies have been limited as political parties can no longer organise such gatherings to persuade citizens to have their name enlisted.

Present Context

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic contributed in the low voters' turnout. Citizens who meet the registration criteria had to respect prescribed barrier measures by the government and the World Health Organisation. With limited movement and a reduced number of persons in a gathering, potential voters could not show up at registration points for the process. In addition, the proximity approach adopted by ELECAM which entailed taking the registration process to voters was withheld. This drastically reduced the number of persons usually registered at popular junctions, churches and markets, which implicitly affected the overall registration percentage.

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