Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cameroon’s biometric voter registration fails to impress

By YUH TIMCHIA, NATION Correspondent, YAOUNDE

Cameroon started its first biometric voter registration but the system seems to have flopped even before gathering any real steam.

At a meeting with officials of the election governing body — Elections Cameroon — on Tuesday, opposition parties and civil society organizations wrote off the new system as incapable of ironing out the playing field.

They said it may not be able to rid legislative and municipal polls due next year of any blight of malpractice.

Since the return to multiparty politics in 1990, every election in Cameroon has been criticised by opposition political parties, the civil society and foreign observer missions.

The Social Democratic Front Chairman John Fru Ndi, runner up in the controversial October 9, 2011 presidential election with a paltry 10 per cent, says the new mode of compiling the voters’ roll will check multiple registrations and not multiple voting.

The opposition leader also found flaws with the mock biometric registration of one of his aides saying all his facial features did not appear on the picture taken.

“This demonstration is done by people who have been trained but their expertise has not convinced me,” Mr Fru Ndi said.

Dr Adamou Ndam Njoya of the Cameroon Democratic Union said the mock registration ought to have been carried out same as would be done on the field.

Another opposition leader Garga Haman Adji who heads the Alliance for Democracy and Development dismissed the new system saying 80 per cent of electoral woes in Cameroon still need to be trashed.

The electoral body, which plans to enlist no less than 7.5 million voters before a 28 February 2013 deadline, sees a good future and seems sure it will not default in reaching that ceiling.

The head of the agency entrusted with the task of organising elections in Cameroon, Dr Samuel Fonkam Azu’u sought to allay the fears of the opposition saying the biometric kits have all been configured to check all nuances.

But, civil society organisations like Cameroon Obosso doubt that the elections body will achieve the feat of registering that number of voters within five months that could be extended by 30 days.

Cameroon Obosso also thinks the issuance of receipts upon registration and not on-the-spot delivery of voters’ cards is a precursor to fraud.

But where the opposition and civil society see roadblocks, the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement sees opportunities.

Its Organising Secretary, Ibrahim Talba Malla, thinks “the biometric system will check fraud, promote peace and enhance democracy”.

Legislative and municipal elections which had to take place this year were deferred to sometime after February 2013 because the electoral list had to be recompiled.

The latest poll, the presidential election in October 2011, where President Paul Biya’s official share was 77.9 per cent was “deeply flawed” according to observers.

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