Cameroon's president seeks to strengthen grip in election

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Cameroon's President Paul Biya waves as he leaves following a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, …

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Voters in Cameroon went to the polls on Monday in local and parliamentary elections expected to be dominated by supporters of President Paul Biya, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

Biya, 80, has ruled over Central Africa's largest economy for three decades after coming to power in 1982 following the resignation of his predecessor.

His Cameroon People's Democratic Movement swept Senate elections in April, taking 56 of the 70 seats contested in the new upper house. The president appointed another 30 senators, guaranteeing his control over the 100-seat body.

Most observers predict a similar landslide in Monday's vote.

Biya defended his record after casting his ballot.

"There has been a great progress in Cameroon's democratic system, but it is unfortunate that I have not heard the press talk about it so much," he told reporters.

A new constitutional council, charged with determining whether laws comply with Cameroon's constitution, would be put in place soon, he added.

The main opposition party Social Democratic Front, which won 14 seats in the senate earlier this year, regularly criticises Cameroon's electoral system, saying it allows Biya to keep a stranglehold on power.

Cameroon produced 22.37 million barrels of oil last year and expects output to rise in 2013 as new wells come online. The country is also the world's fifth-ranked grower of cocoa.

More than five million voters registered to take part in the polls, which will elect 180 members to the National Assembly - parliament's lower chamber - as well as 360 local councils.

Results are expected to be announced within two weeks, according to the country's elections body.

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