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EXAMINATION OF ELECTORAL REFORMS AND CHALLENGES TO FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN CAMEROON

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EXAMINATION OF ELECTORAL REFORMS AND CHALLENGES TO FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the study

Since gaining independence, Cameroon has grappled with political instability, authoritarian regimes, and socio-economic disparities. The country's political landscape has been dominated by the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), led by President Paul Biya since 1982(Cameroon, 2017). While Cameroon adopted a multi-party system in 1990, the political environment remains largely controlled by the ruling party, limiting the competitiveness and fairness of elections. Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa, has experienced a complex political landscape since its independence in 1960. Throughout its history, the nation has undergone various political transitions, including shifts in governance structures and electoral processes (Chrda, 2018). Despite efforts to establish democratic norms, challenges persist in ensuring free and fair elections, raising concerns about the integrity of the electoral system and the democratic legitimacy of its outcomes. Over the years, Cameroon has implemented electoral reforms aimed at enhancing transparency, inclusivity, and credibility in the electoral process. These reforms have included the establishment of electoral management bodies, such as the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), to oversee elections, as well as legal amendments to promote political pluralism and ensure the participation of opposition parties(Gwaibi, 2016). However, despite these efforts, significant challenges persist, undermining the effectiveness of electoral reforms and the legitimacy of election outcomes. Despite the implementation of electoral reforms, Cameroon continues to face numerous challenges that impede the conduct of free and fair elections. These challenges encompass various aspects of the electoral process, including voter registration, campaign activities, ballot counting, and the resolution of electoral disputes. The dominance of the ruling party and its influence over state institutions create an uneven playing field, limiting the opposition's ability to compete fairly in elections(Gwaibi, 2018). Allegations of electoral fraud, voter intimidation, and manipulation of electoral laws undermine the credibility of the electoral process. Socio-economic factors, including high levels of poverty, illiteracy, and limited access to information, hinder meaningful civic participation in the electoral process. A lack of voter education programs and civic awareness campaigns further exacerbates voter apathy and disenfranchisement, particularly among marginalized communities. In addition, the prevalence of electoral violence, including inter-party clashes, intimidation tactics, and acts of political repression, poses a significant threat to the conduct of free and fair elections. Instances of violence often escalate during election periods, disrupting the electoral process and instilling fear among voters and candidates (Kombi, 2015). Similarly,  despite the establishment of independent electoral management bodies, institutional weaknesses, including a lack of autonomy, financial transparency, and capacity constraints, undermine their ability to effectively oversee elections. Political interference and insufficient resources further compromise the independence and integrity of electoral institutions(Shin, 2017). While Cameroon has undertaken electoral reforms to improve the transparency and fairness of elections, significant challenges persist, hindering the realization of free and fair electoral processes. Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive reforms encompassing institutional strengthening, civic education, and political dialogue to foster a more inclusive and democratic electoral environment. Failure to address these issues risks undermining the legitimacy of elections and perpetuating political instability in Cameroon. Therefore, the study electoral reforms and challenges to free and fair elections in Cameroon.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Free and fair elections constitute the cornerstone of a democratic society, ensuring the representation and voice of citizens in governance. In Cameroon, despite efforts to improve electoral processes, persistent challenges undermine the integrity and credibility of elections. This study seeks to examine the electoral reforms implemented in Cameroon and the enduring obstacles that impede the realization of truly free and fair elections(Verjee & Mutah, 2018). The problem arises from a complex interplay of political, social, and institutional factors. Despite the introduction of electoral reforms aimed at enhancing transparency, inclusivity, and fairness, significant challenges persist. These challenges encompass various aspects, including but not limited to: institutional weaknesses, legal framework, political dynamics, sociocultural context and technological challenges(Wenzell, 2019). Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics shaping Cameroon's electoral landscape and the effectiveness of past electoral reforms. By examining the gap between reform intentions and their implementation, this study aims to identify key obstacles and opportunities for advancing towards genuinely free and fair elections in Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to examine electoral reforms and challenges to free and fair elections in Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows

To analyze the factors responsible for electoral reforms in Cameroon.

To assess the impact of electoral reforms on the democratic process of Cameroon.

To identify the challenges faced by Cameroon in conducting free and fair elections.

To assess the effectiveness of existing electoral laws and institutions in promoting transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

1.4 Research Questions

The following questions have been prepared to guide the study

What are the factors responsible for electoral reforms in Cameroon?

What is the impact of electoral reforms on the democratic process of Cameroon?

What are the challenges faced by Cameroon in conducting free and fair elections?

How effective are the existing electoral laws and institutions in promoting transparency and accountability in the electoral process?

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of the study will be significant to the following

Government: Understanding the dynamics of electoral reforms and challenges in Cameroon is essential for promoting democratic governance. Elections serve as a cornerstone of democracy, providing citizens with the opportunity to express their political preferences and hold their leaders accountable. By examining electoral processes, this study contributes to strengthening democratic institutions and practices in Cameroon.

1.6 Scope of the study

The study focuses on electoral reforms and challenges to free and fair elections in Cameroon. Empirically, the study will  analyze the factors responsible for electoral reforms in Cameroon, assess the impact of electoral reforms on the democratic process of Cameroon, identify the challenges faced by Cameroon in conducting free and fair elections and assess the effectiveness of existing electoral laws and institutions in promoting transparency and accountability in the electoral process.

1.7 Limitation of the study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

1.8 Definition of terms

Electoral reforms:  Electoral change can only be referred to as reform if its primary goal is to improve electoral processes

Elections:a formal and organized choice by vote of a person for a political office or other position.


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