Authorisation of 40 new political parties: More allies for Presidential Majority ahead of 2025?.
The country had already been boasting of 329 political parties, some of which cannot claim any noticeable following.
Despite this huge number of political parties in a country of about 28 million people, the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, on November 9, 2023, announced the authorisation of 40 new political parties!
In a press release, Minister Atanga Nji said: “To enrich the political landscape and promote the freedom of expression, so dear to the Head of State, His Excellency Paul Biya, Great Advocate of democracy in our country, the Minister of Territorial Administration, has authorised forty (40) political parties that will henceforth contribute to open and constructive debates”.
However, political pundits have been quick at questioning if the move to authorise 40 new ‘political parties’, is not another ploy by the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM-led government to swell the ranks of what has been known as Presidential Majority and G20, in order to boost President Biya’s support base, in anticipation of the 2025 presidential election.
Political analysts say some of these new parties, with no specific political agenda or support base, will only serve to split the opposition and dilute the message of change, preached by vibrant political parties such as the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and Cameroon Renaissance Movement, MRC.
This, many say, is a clear depiction of the CPDM regime’s tactics of ‘divide and conquer’. Through this, the CPDM has always succeeded to puncture any veritable opposition alliance that may sweep away President Biya from power.
It should be noted that the Presidential Majority is a group of ‘opposition political parties’ that have pledged their support for President Biya. Whenever there is a presidential election, this group of ‘political parties’ come out publicly to back the candidacy of Biya and call on their ‘supporters’ to vote for him.
For its part, the G20 is a group of leaders of twenty ‘opposition political parties’ that have also pledged support for Biya. It has the same objective like the Presidential Majority-support President Biya’s candidacy at presidential elections and also do some of the ‘dirty’ biddings of the Biya regime.
Some of the members of G20 include: Jean de Dieu Momo, National Chairman of Democratic Patriots for the Development of Cameroon, PADDEC; Dr Benz Enow Bate, Chairman of Cameroon Democratic Party, CDP; Rev Prof Tita Samuel Fon, who claims to be National Chairman of Cameroon People’s Party, CPP and Hon Bappoh Libot of Cameroonian Peoples Union, UPC; among others.
The ‘leaders’ of political parties of the Presidential Majority and G20, have often been seen on the field, campaigning for Biya during presidential elections.
The Presidential Majority and G20 have not gone on rewarded. In return, President Biya has appointed some ‘leaders’ of political parties within the Presidential Majority and G20 into ministerial positions and other positions within the government.
These include Bello Bouba Maigari of the National Union for Democracy and Progress, UNDP; Issa Tchiroma Bakari of the National Salvation Front, FNSC; Hamadou Mustapha of the National Alliance for Democracy and Progress, ANDP; Jean De Dieu Momo of PADDEC and Dibong née Ngo Biyong Marie Rose of UNDP.
In the past, the late Augustin Frederic Kodock of UPC and Dakole Daisalla of Movement for the Defense of the Republic, MDR, were appointed into government.
Biya undecided whether to seek re-election
It is still uncertain if President Biya will run for another mandate in the 2025 presidential election.
During a joint press conference when French president, Emmanuel Macron, visited Cameroon in July 2022, Biya, who is currently running a seven-year mandate, replying to an RFI journalist on the possibility of him running in the 2025 presidential election, had said: "My mandate is seven years, subtract four from seven and you'll know the time I have to run the affairs of Cameroon as Head of State…”.
He sarcastically disclosed that the new CPDM candidate for the 2025 presidential election will be known at the end of his mandate and not before.
"Wait for my mandate to end and then, you will know if I will continue or I go to the village," he had stated.
But given the recent avalanche of calls from CPDM supporters for him to be their candidate in the 2025 presidential election, political pundits are saying another mandate for Biya may already be a fait accompli.
It should be noted that the Presidential Majority and G20 have often been used to fragment the opposition and pave the way for Biya’s ‘victory’ at presidential elections in Cameroon.
The CPDM is routinely accused of sponsoring the creation of dummy parties, whose role is to muddy the political waters, serve as relay points for Biya regime’s unpopular positions on issues of the day, and dilute the strength and votes of the opposition.
Evidently, quantity is not a problem when it comes to the number of political parties in Cameroon. However, quality is a very scarce commodity with very few viable parties that can effectively compete and win elections at the national and local levels.
Political watchers have been questioning the very high number of political parties in Cameroon, and their evident inability to take part in the political process and compete in elections, which is the essence of political parties?
The law governing political parties in Cameroon, Law No. 90/56 of 19 December 1990, allows for an unlimited number of political parties; it has been described as “Le multipartisme integral”.
Creating a political party is a fairly easy and inexpensive administrative process in Cameroon. Officially, this is to give every Cameroonian the chance to have a voice in the country’s political process if he or she so desires.
Conventional wisdom, however, holds that the Biya regime crafted Cameroon’s multiparty law in 1990 with an eye on (opposition) party multiplication and fragmentation as a means to perpetuate CPDM’s grip on the political process and system.
University don, Prof Francis Nyamnjoh, in his book: “Africa's Media: Democracy and the Politics of Belonging”, argues that “the multiplicity of parties, most of which have no existence outside the personality of their founders, can be explained partly by government’s interest in dissipating real democratic opposition…”.
Many of the political parties are suspected of being CPDM moles charged with either infiltrating opposition groupings or passing off as the “responsible opposition”, constantly challenging the “radical and irrational” policies of the “hardline opposition”.
For instance, to this day, many political analysts still insist that Dakole Daisalla’s MDR, which teamed up with Biya in 1992 to give the latter a parliamentary majority in 1992, was in fact created by the regime.
CPDM happy to see split opposition
There are several instances which point to the direction of the CPDM regime being more than happy to exploit misunderstanding within the opposition and aggravate any schisms that emerged within the opposition’s camp.
For example, the CPDM government was able to help foster discord within the Cameroonian Peoples Union, UPC, during leadership fights that plagued the party.
Other noticeable examples of ‘buying off’ of opposition figures included the incorporation of prominent members of the UNDP party into the Biya government after the October 1992 election.
With the UNDP’s Vice President, Hamadou Mustapha, and Secretary General, Issa Tchiroma, breaking ranks and joining the CPDM government, the leader of the UNDP, Bouba Bello Maigari, had no option but to follow suit.
The Biya regime, analysts say, has successfully weakened the opposition and driven it into disarray.
Whatever the original intentions of the various laws that govern political parties and elections in Cameroon, the outcome has been a political landscape that promotes the mushrooming of non-viable political parties, many of whose entire membership can fit in a phone booth, so to say.
Political pundits are therefore saying that the recent authorisation of 40 new political parties by the Minister of Territorial Administration, has more than meets the eye.