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AN EVALUATION OF THE INDEPENDENCE OF ELECTORAL MANAGEMENT BOARD IN CAMEROON

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AN EVALUATION OF  THE INDEPENDENCE OF ELECTORAL MANAGEMENT BOARD IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

On a global scale, the unrestricted manifestation of the people's desires through a confidential and equitable vote, facilitated by a universal, transparent, and participatory electoral procedure, is seen as the fundamental basis of an all-encompassing and enduring democracy. Kerr (2021) asserts that the exercise of the right to vote and be voted for can be subject to various limitations imposed by unscrupulous, power-seeking, and irresponsible governments driven by self-serving political motives. Ismailaa and Zaheruddin (2020) noted that administrations in several self-proclaimed democracies worldwide have significant manipulative inclinations, so diminishing the election process and rendering democracy mostly devoid of significance. Numerous elections within imperfect democratic systems are marked by instances of vote manipulation, deviations from electoral regulations, exploitation of the electoral procedure, and acts of violence directed at political parties in opposition. The absence of trustworthy electoral institutions has been identified as one of the contributing factors to the current state of affairs, as noted by Ewang (2020). This condition has frequently resulted in highly undesirable outcomes, particularly in Africa, leading to instances of bloodshed and instability. Credible electoral institutions are essential for ensuring credible elections, as the overall legitimacy and acceptability of an election heavily rely on the integrity of the electoral institution and its management of the electoral process. However, it is important to note that these institutions alone are not enough to guarantee free and fair elections.

Without a doubt, Election Management Bodies play a crucial role in the election process due to three primary factors. According to Arolowo and Aluko (2022), one of the primary roles of electoral systems is to facilitate the conduct of legitimate elections by providing a realistic framework. Furthermore, they possess a supervisory role by overseeing the actions of other participants in the electoral procedure and detecting and addressing any misconduct. In addition, they serve an educational and communicative purpose through the implementation of civic education programmes pertaining to the voting process. Hence, the presence of an election management body (EMB) that possesses qualities of independence, impartiality, professionalism, transparency, and public trust is of paramount importance in upholding the integrity of an election and bolstering public and political faith in it. In response to this prevailing circumstance, governments have been strongly encouraged in many international forums to establish autonomous, inclusive, proficient, and responsible electoral institutions staffed by highly skilled personnel and equipped with sufficient logistical resources to supervise the voting procedure

.In the Cameroonian context, subsequent to the re-establishment of multi-party politics in 1990, a series of presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections have been conducted. Momodu and Gambo (2020) assert that the results of these elections have been subject to intense debate, as several stakeholders have characterized them as significantly defective and inadequate in accurately representing the populace's desires. Prominent international organisations engaged in election observation, including the Commonwealth, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the International Foundation for Election Systems, have conducted electoral assessments in Cameroon. Their respective reports have consistently characterised the electoral process as a superficial facade. The current situation has predominantly been attributed to the absence of a reputable and autonomous elections administration, since elections in Cameroon have been overseen by institutions that are not widely accepted by the majority of stakeholders. Prior to 2001, the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation (MINADT) only oversaw the management of elections in Cameroon. The establishment of the National Elections Observatory (NEO) was a response to the MINADT's significant bias and manipulation of election outcomes in support of the ruling party.13 Nevertheless, the mission of NEO did not grant it the authority to actively participate in the process of election management. The scope of its responsibilities was confined to the oversight and regulation of electoral processes, with the actual coordination of the polls being entrusted to the much criticised MINADT. The effectiveness and impartiality of NEO's involvement in the electoral process in Cameroon since 2002 have faced significant criticism. Consequently, Cameroon has seen a slow and perilous establishment of authoritarian governance disguised as democracy, due to defective elections resulting from inadequate administration. 

In 2006, the Cameroon government established Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) as the exclusive entity tasked with overseeing the whole election process, in response to significant pressure from opposition political parties, civil society, and the international community. Nevertheless, the operationalization of the organisation occurred just in January 2010, when the signature and transfer of all electoral papers from MINADT to ELECAM took place. The establishment of ELECAM and the forthcoming task of overseeing the 2011 presidential elections in Cameroon have sparked considerable controversy over its ability to effectively address this problem and guarantee a reliable ballot, considering its mandate, institutional structure, and constitutional framework. This study is situated within the given context and aims to investigate the extent to whether this structure possesses the necessary independence, non-partisanship, and professional ability to effectively oversee the entirety of an election process. 

1.2 Statement of the problem

Elections in Cameroon have lost their relevance as a weapon in the hands of the people to hold their government accountable and as a vehicle for democratization. Instead, elections have been used to stall the democratization process and perpetuate the stay of leaders in power even against the will of the people. Ewang (2020) observed that elections in Cameroon have been marred by fraud and numerous irregularities and these have been blamed on the poor administration of these elections. This situation has been exacerbated with the creation by the government, of phony election management institutions that lack all the guarantees of independence, credibility and effectiveness that these institutions are supposed to have. 

According to Article 116 of the Electoral Code, the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) is responsible for the organization, management, and supervision of elections and referendums in the country (Elections Cameroon 2022). However, concerns have been raised regarding the independence of ELECAM due to its composition and its operational autonomy. The composition of ELECAM includes members appointed by the President of the Republic, which raises questions about its impartiality. According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), "The President of the Republic appoints the members of the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) board, and the institution's financial autonomy is limited, as it remains dependent on the state budget." (IFES, 2019) This appointment mechanism could undermine the board's independence as it may be susceptible to political influence.

Bizarrely, Uzuage (2022) mentioned that ELECAM's operational autonomy is also questionable. Despite being mandated to organize and supervise elections, its financial dependence on the state budget can potentially compromise its independence. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) notes that "ELECAM remains dependent on the state budget for its funding, thereby raising concerns about its operational autonomy." (IDEA, 2020) This financial reliance on the government could impede ELECAM's ability to act independently, especially in situations where there might be conflicts of interest between the government and the electoral process.

In practice, there have been instances where ELECAM's decisions and actions have been perceived as influenced by political interests. For example, during the 2018 presidential elections, there were allegations of irregularities and lack of transparency in the electoral process, casting doubt on the impartiality of ELECAM. According to Amnesty International, The 2018 presidential elections were marred by irregularities, including allegations of ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation, which raised questions about the independence and credibility of ELECAM." (Amnesty International, 2019) Such incidents undermine public trust in ELECAM's independence and its ability to ensure free and fair elections.

With implications for the fairness and transparency of elections in the country, there is paucity of studies on evaluation of the independence of the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon, examining both legal frameworks and practical implementation, to identify gaps and challenges hindering its autonomy. Such an evaluation is crucial for fostering public trust, enhancing democratic legitimacy, and informing potential reforms aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process in Cameroon. Against this backdrop, the study seeks to evaluate the independence of electoral management board in Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The aim of this study is focused on an evaluation of  the independence of electoral management board in Cameroon. Specifically, the study seeks to:

To assess the legal framework governing the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon

To determine the level of Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon

To evaluate factors  influencing Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon

To analyze how such interference impact the credibility and independence of electoral processes in Cameroon contribute to or detract from its independence.

1.4 Research Questions

i.What is the legal framework governing the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon?

ii.What is  the level of Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon?

iii. What are the factors  influencing Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon?

iv. How does such interference impact the credibility and independence of electoral processes in Cameroon contribute to or detract from its independence?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: The level of Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon is low. 

Hi: The level of Electoral Management Board independence in Cameroon is high.

1.6 Significance of the study

The significance of the study lies in its potential to address critical issues surrounding the independence of the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon, with far-reaching implications for democracy, governance, and electoral integrity. The findings of this study can inform efforts to strengthen democratic governance in Cameroon by promoting transparent and impartial electoral processes. A more independent Electoral Management Board enhances the credibility of elections, fosters public trust, and upholds democratic principles of fairness and accountability. By identifying and addressing factors that compromise its autonomy, such as political interference and financial dependence, the study helps mitigate risks of electoral malpractices, manipulation, and fraud, thereby ensuring free and fair elections.

For the public, A credible and independent Electoral Management Board enhances public trust in the electoral process and the legitimacy of elected representatives. Through its findings and recommendations, this study can contribute to rebuilding trust among citizens, political stakeholders, and international observers, strengthening the foundations of democratic governance in Cameroon. For policy reforms, The study provides evidence-based insights into the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in the current legal framework and operational practices of the Electoral Management Board. This knowledge empowers policymakers, electoral authorities, civil society organizations, and international partners to initiate reforms aimed at enhancing the board's independence, thereby improving the overall quality and integrity of elections in Cameroon.

1.7 Scope of the study

The scope of the study on the independence of the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon. Empirically, The study will analyze the relevant legal provisions governing the establishment, mandate, and functioning of the Electoral Management Board in Cameroon. This includes provisions related to its independence, powers, composition, and accountability mechanisms as outlined in the Electoral Code and other relevant legislation. Geographically, the study will draw its participant from Electoral Management Board in Cameroon.

1.8 Limitation of the study

One of the limitation to the will will be acesss to information. Limited availability of official documents, data, and records related to the operations and decision-making processes of the Electoral Management Board may hinder the study's ability to conduct a thorough analysis. Restricted access to sensitive information or government reluctance to disclose certain details could impede the research.a. furthermore, the political senstivity of this topic which may lead to potential challenges in obtaining cooperation from government authorities, electoral officials, or other stakeholders. Fear of reprisal or retaliation may result in reluctance to provide candid responses or share critical information. Furthermore is, bias and perspective of Stakeholders' on the independence of the Electoral Management Board which may be influenced by their, interests, or political affiliations. This could introduce subjective interpretations or discrepancies in the data collected, affecting the objectivity and reliability of the study's findings. . Additionally, due to resource constraints or logistical limitations, the study may focus on specific aspects or regions within Cameroon, potentially limiting its ability to capture the diversity of experiences and perspectives across the country. As a result, the findings may not be fully representative or applicable to all contexts within Cameroon or other countries.

1.9 Definition of terms

Election: An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office. 

Electoral Process: The electoral process refers to the series of steps and activities that occur during the conduct of an election, from the announcement of the election to the declaration of results. It is a fundamental aspect of democratic governance, allowing citizens to participate in the selection of their representatives and leaders.

Electoral Management Board: Also known as Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) in Cameroon, the Electoral Management Board refers to the institution responsible for organizing, managing, and supervising elections and referendums in the country. It includes the administrative body tasked with overseeing electoral processes, ensuring their integrity and adherence to legal standards.

Independence: In the context of this study, independence refers to the ability of the Electoral Management Board to operate free from undue influence or interference, particularly from political actors or other external forces. It encompasses institutional autonomy, impartiality, and freedom from coercion, ensuring that electoral processes are conducted transparently and fairly.


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