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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Presidential 2018: Paul Biya favorite despite the anglophone crisis

More than 6.5 million Cameroonians are called on Sunday to elect their new president, to give or not a seventh mandate to Paul Biya, 85 years of which 35 in power, he who is favorite despite very strong tensions in the English-speaking regions of the country .

A Cameroonian election had never been held when the army was deployed in three of the ten regions of the country: the Far North, where it fought the jihadists of Boko Haram, and the two English-speaking regions of the North-West and Southwest, where armed separatists claim independence.

These threatened to prevent the smooth running of the polls in these areas squared by the police and security forces.

Yaoundé is reassuring: the poll will take place throughout the territory, assured the Minister of Territorial Administration in mid-September, and these armed conflicts are only "troubles", according to Paul Biya.

However, the conflict against separatist fighters has continued to grow since the beginning of the crisis in late 2016. At the time, English-speaking corporatist demands led to protests and numerous arrests.

Largely, this socio-political crisis has gradually turned into a violent armed conflict between the elite troops of the Cameroonian security forces and increasingly armed separatists.

Multiplying attacks on state symbols, gendarmeries in the lead, and kidnappings of civil servants, these groups forced many local authorities to flee their administration in some English-speaking localities.

Authorities' response: Some polling stations will be "offshored", Elecam media said, the body responsible for organizing the vote.

- "Broad political offer" -

President-candidate Paul Biya, who, for the first time since 2012, went to the provinces to hold a pre-election rally on Saturday in Maroua (north), can count on a myriad of supporters to campaign for him.

Ministers, leaders of the ruling party, traditional leaders: as in the past, he was able to mobilize. Everywhere, posters with his effigy have been posted and his support range from TV show in TV show defend his record.

His "vision for Cameroon", compiled in a book in 1987, was also reissued in early September.

Discreet otherwise, President Biya has preached to Maroua "both firmness and dialogue" in the Anglophone areas in crisis.

Eight candidates hope to overthrow the ballot box, which is called in Cameroon the "Sphinx". And unlike the last three elections for which the longtime opponent, Ni John Fru Ndi, was the main challenger, the poll seems to be more open in 2018.

"This is the first time in the history of Cameroon that there are opposition candidates as demarcated, who have real political offers each different," said Fred Eboko, Cameroonian political scientist at the Institute for Research and Development (IRD).

Three men stand out: Joshua Osih, who took over the torch of Fru Ndi and was invested candidate of the Social Democratic Front (SDF, main opposition party), Mauritius Kamto, a former minister in the opposition who enjoys a strong land base, and Akere Muna, a famous lawyer who has good relays abroad.

No opposition coalition has been formed for this one-round election, each of whom is sure of his chances of being elected.

As in 2011, it seems difficult to see a victory for an opposition candidate. At the time, Biya was reelected with 77.98% of the vote, and Paris as Washington had noted "many irregularities" in the ballot.

Opposition candidates, the Catholic Church, and some civil society actors have announced that they will deploy election observers to ensure that there is no fraud.

In this country, where only 10% of the working population has a formal job, a third of the population lives on less than 2 euros a day and 75% of the population knew as president only Mr Biya, the challenges of the new head of the State will be immense.

Source: AFP