Another new year has come with the usual expectations and speculations that go with any new beginning. But concerning the electoral calendar in Cameroon, there may be little room for doubts. The institution that has the responsibility to organise, manage and supervise all election and referendum operations in the country, “Elections Cameroon” abbreviated as “ELECAM” is definitely going to be ready for the departure signal to take off with the various electoral consultations that are provided for by the constitution this year.
Listening to President Paul Biya in his state of the nation address on 31 December, 2017, the phrase might have appeared void of details, but it had all the density and weight that such solemn declarations require, especially as it came from the Head of State.
“The year 2018 will be an important election year. All necessary measures will be taken to ensure that elections are held in peace and security.”
President Paul Biya said without further commentary. With the understanding that elections for parliamentary seats took place in 2013 for Senators and Members of Parliament as well as the Council elections and that of the President of the Republic in 2011 also makes the tenure of Mr Biya to end this year, it means all those polls will have to be in 2018.
Thus, when the President of the Republic said in his end of year message that all measures have been taken, those who have the responsibility either within the administration, ELECAM and other technical structures in the country have to start getting set. President Biya’s statement equally carried an important detail about peace and security which are important for such electoral exercises to take place. Not only the present context of insecurity in parts of the Far North and the social tension in the North West and South West Regions that has been degenerating, but the need for serenity at all levels in the handling of State affairs remains paramount.
Put within context, the declaration that “the completion of the establishment of the institutions provided for in the Constitution will contribute towards consolidating the rule of law and open a new page in our democratic process,” makes greater sense even to the most sceptics of listeners. For several years now the country has been involved in the democratization process with the reintroduction of multiparty politics.
In addition, the Constitutional provisions of a decentralised Unitary State have been progressively put in place and the need for Regional and Constitutional Councils are still being felt and such provisions could come up at anytime. Consequently, the President pointed out that “it is my firm belief that fast-tracking our decentralization process will enhance the development of our Regions.
To that end, I have ordered the implementation of the necessary measures to speedily give effect to this major reform.” He affirmed. From a global perspective therefore, the presidential directives clearly indicate that the electoral activities for the year just beginning could be urgent and there is enough argument for political party officials, their supporters and all Cameroonians to brace up and perform their civic duties.
Those who might have had any reservations about the electoral calendar in the country can now look forward to a busy 2018 with the elections to the top job in the country- that of President of the Republic, the legislative body, Senators and Members of Parliament as well as local councils.
The growing cry for the effective implementation of the decentralisation process in the country and the emphasis laid on the issues by the Head of State, give every reason to think that the legitimate feelings by the grassroots that they should be able to have a say in the management of their own affairs could have an additional push this year once the Electorate will be convened.
The population may not only have to exercise their civic duty, they will equally have the opportunity to see more powers being devolved to the local and regional levels such that participative development would be a concrete reality in the country.