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Sunday, 23 June, 2002, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Cameroon polls suspended
President Paul Biya
President Biya: In power since 1982
Cameroon's parliamentary and municipal elections, which were scheduled to start on Sunday, have been postponed for a week.

Government radio announced the decision after voting had reportedly begun in several provinces.

Cameroon play Saudi Arabia in the World Cup
Some said the election was scheduled to coincide with the World Cup
The printer given the job of producing the ballots had failed to meet its deadline, it said.

But critics of President Paul Biya's government said the postponement could have more to do with fear of trouble in English-speaking provinces near Cameroon's border with Nigeria.

At least 10 people were injured in political violence last week, and more clashes were feared.

English speakers say they are treated as second-class citizens and are lobbying for autonomy or secession.

Opposition claims

The main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, had threatened to disrupt voting after many of its proposed candidates were barred from standing.

The government says the candidates were rejected because their applications to stand were incomplete or were not submitted at all.

There were also claims that the election was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the football World Cup in the hope of distracting attention from attempts to carry out ballot-rigging.

The Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (RDPC) of President Biya, who has ruled the country since coming to power under a one-party system in 1982, held a majority of 116 seats in the outgoing 180-member assembly.

It had been confident of strengthening its grip on power.

Besides being home to about 250 ethnic groups, Cameroon has a small English-speaking region in the west. French is the predominant language elsewhere.

It is also split along religious lines, with a Muslim north and a mainly Christian south.

See also:

21 May 02 | Africa
22 Feb 02 | Africa
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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