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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Cameroon priest criticises poll
Cardinal Tumi
Cardinal Tumi said Cameroon had never had a free election
One of Cameroon's most senior religious leaders has criticised the organisation of Monday's presidential election.

Cardinal Christian Tumi told the BBC that people had lost confidence in the government's ability to conduct polling and called for an impartial body.

The opposition has alleged rigging, however, US election observers praised the polls, saying: "This is what democracy is about."

Unofficial results point to a landslide win for incumbent President Paul Biya.

Afraid

Mr Biya has been in power since 1982 and many Cameroonians did not bother to vote, believing the election would not affect their lives.

Although many journalists say they only saw short queues at polling stations, the minister in charge of organising the election, Marafa Hamidou Yaya said that turnout was between 80 and 85% of the four million who had registered.

We have never seen such a transparent way to show who got the vote
Greg Laughlin
US election observer
Cardinal Tumi accused the Mr Biya's party of being afraid of organising free elections in case it lost power.

"Any well organised elections would mean danger for the party in power," he told the BBC's Network Africa.

He said that all of Cameroon's elections since independence had been "surrounded by fraud".

Both main opposition groups have alleged malpractice.

The Social Democratic Front has called for the courts to annul the election, while the candidate of an opposition coalition said it was "a masquerade, with overt fraud throughout the country."

The government has denied these claims and been backed by a group of former members of the US congress.

Well ahead

"The elections were conducted fairly," said their head Greg Laughlin.

President of Cameroon
Paul Biya has been president since 1982
"At the closing of the poll, we have never seen such a transparent way to show who got the vote. Everyone was able to witness the process."

Another member of the US team, Ronnie Shows, said:

"In general, the process was free. This is what democracy is about."

"We went to a rally of the main opposition party here in Yaounde and we didn't see any harassment."

Mr Biya is well ahead in nine out of Cameroon's 10 provinces, with 90% of the vote in some areas, Mr Yaya said.

The SDF's John Fru Ndi is doing well in his English-speaking stronghold of the North-West province.

Official results are expected in two weeks.




SEE ALSO:
Cameroon's reluctant campaigner
09 Oct 04  |  Africa
Cameroon players back president
06 Sep 04  |  Africa
Timeline: Cameroon
27 Apr 04  |  Country profiles
Country profile: Cameroon
14 Jul 04  |  Country profiles


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