Opposition asks Cameroon Supreme Court to annul polls


Mark Huband in Nairobi

The Guardian, 15 October 1992


LAWYERS representing two leading opposition presidential candidates filed petitions yesterday with the Cameroon Supreme Court to annul Sunday’s presidential election.

Election officials said last night that the petitions accused the government of President Paul Biya of adding names to voter registration lists, setting up fake polling stations and withholding ballot papers.

The intervention by the opposition leaders, John Fru Ndi Bello Bouba Maigari, put an immediate stop to the official counting of votes. The court has 36 hours to give a ruling.

The court action followed criticism of the vote yesterday by foreign observers who accused the Cameroon government of widespread malpractice in the cunning of the country’s first multi-party presidential election. Figures realised yesterday gave Mr Biya a big lead in the ongoing count with 979,300 votes against 713,626 for Mr Fru Ndi.

Troop reinforcements were sent to the home region of Mr Biya in the south of the country yesterday after rioting and looting broke our when it became clear that Mr Biya, president since 1982, was expected to gain up to 52 per cent of the official vote. The information minister Augustin Koumegni Konchou claimed that the election was the fairest “on the human planet”.

Observers from the United States’ National Democratic Institute, however, issued a statement yesterday saying that there were “serious problems regarding the conduct of the election process”.

The NDI, three of whose observers were barred from entering the country for failing to produce visas, said that voter registration was incomplete and registers were not open for inspection.

The observers said it was unclear whether the alleged irregularities had influenced the final outcome, but they pointed to an imbalance in campaign coverage in the state-owned media which favoured Mr Biya. Television coverage since October 7 had allotted the ruling party 142 minutes of coverage while the six opposition candidates were left to share only 12 minutes. The observers also complained that polling stations were inadequately signposted, there was a shortage of ballot papers and that some registered voters did not appear on registration lists.

John Fru Ndi, leader of the largest opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, said yesterday: “The worst scenario is that Biya will announce that he has won. We don’t want people to riot.”

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