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Cameroon Postpones Parliamentary Elections

Parliamentary and municipal elections in Cameroon that were scheduled to begin on Sunday, were postponed for a week, the government said.

An official statement said it had discovered late on Saturday there were "lapses in the printing of voting material" and urged people in the central African country to remain calm.

But opposition figures criticised the move.

The voting had been expected to tighten President Paul Biya's grip on power but the campaign had also highlighted political conflicts within Cameroon. At least 10 people were hurt in clashes in the run-up to the elections.

"Because of lack of preparation, the elections have been postponed to Sunday, June 30," the government said as large queues formed at polling stations in the capital, Yaounde.

Opposition figures suggested that the postponement could have more to do with fear of trouble in minority English-speaking provinces near Cameroon's border with Nigeria.

The main opposition party, which has threatened to disrupt voting there because many of its proposed candidates had been barred from standing, said the delay vindicated its charge that the government was unable to organise a free and fair vote.
Cameroon Postpones Parliamentary Elections
"It is a statement in support of our request for the creation of an independent electoral commission," said Tazoachi Asonganyi, secretary general of the Social Democratic Front.

"It shows that not only the (National Elections Observatory) has failed, but the Ministry of Territory Administration has failed woefully in organising elections," he said.

After last week's violence, more clashes have been feared, as accusations of vote-rigging and fraud fly thick and fast.

Many people have found their names are not on registers of eligible voters. Others found they were registered, but they did not receive voting cards necessary to take part in the ballot.

The Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (RDPC) led by Biya, who has ruled Cameroon since 1982, has 116 seats in the 180-member assembly and says it expects to add to that total.

"My party has already secured 150 seats for itself," said committee member Bernard Fonju on Saturday. "Come rain or shine, the RDPC must get 150 seats at the upcoming legislative elections."

The opposition had complained some of its candidates had been barred from standing to ensure a landslide for Biya.

Besides being home to about 250 different ethnic groups, the former French colony has a small English-speaking region in the west, close the border with formerly British-ruled Nigeria.

Its 15 million people are also split along religious lines, with a Muslim north and a mainly Christian south.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has dispatched a former Ivory Coast prime minister, Seydou Diarra, as his special envoy to appeal for smooth and transparent elections.

"What has happened today is a shame to all of us Cameroonians," said Emmanuel Tchato, a worker at the National Handicapped Centre in Yaounde.

"Last week the government postponed exams in parts of the country because of poor organisation. Today it is the elections. It is as if Cameroon has no government." Cameroon Postpones Parliamentary Elections.
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