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General News of Saturday, 1 November 2014

Source: The Guardian Post Newspaper

Editorial: Mushroom political parties: A danger to Cameroon’s democracy

Another opposition political party, whose name is not worth mentioning so as not to give it undeserved publicity, was last week launched in Yaounde to add to some 300 others existing in Cameroon.

They are instead a hurdle to the democratic process given that most of them do not contest municipal, parliamentary, senatorial or presidential elections. So what is the purpose of their formation and existence?

Several reasons have been advanced in the past by political analysts. The most repeated has been that some of these family-seize parties front for the ruling party so as to divide the opposition. There are others whose interest is to scramble for the left-over of the CPDM dinner table in the name of “presidential majority”.

These pseudo-politicians have been assisted in their misadventure of creating political parties because of the liberal nature of the liberty laws. It is easier and cheaper to create a political party in Cameroon than a civil society organisation such as a common initiative group.

Some of these political parties subsist purely in the imagination of the owners. They have no known office other than the private residence of their founders. They contest no election and do not even have a sheer brochure in which their policies are explained.

Of the 300 political parties in existence in Cameroon, only some 45 took part in the last legislative and municipal elections. In 2007 when 207 political parties were in existence, about the same number participated at the municipal and legislative polls.

At the start of multi-party elections in 1992 when just 69 political parties were registered, 32 of them actually participated in the legislative elections at which the leading opposition party, the SDF boycotted.

The pro-rata trend has indicated that the more the parties, the less the number taking part in elections. The raison d’être for the creation of any purposeful political party is to contest and win elections through pragmatic ideologies. Such philosophical concepts of development must be significantly different from those of the party in power.

If a political party has the same ideology with that of the CPDM for instance, why would it hang on the apron strings of the ruling party in the name of “presidential majority” instead of just joining the party?

The reason is that the hangers-on get more financial benefits and trappings than if they were members of the party. The plethora of opposition parties also bank on the financial assistance given to some of them for political campaigns if they do struggle to pay the required deposits.

Some pundits argue that the motivation of so many political parties being registered is to squeeze some of the money usually allocated to political groupings taking part in elections.

Those that cannot afford to raise the minimal deposit drop by the wayside. But what of those that do provide the deposits even if through loan? The government has failed to monitor how the money is spent the reason why it is often misappropriated by the party leaders.

There is the other school of thought which holds that the multiplication of mushroom political parties is a design by the CPDM government. Francis Nyamnjoh, himself a presidential candidate on two occasions in an article on Democracy And The Politics Of Belonging claims that “The multiplicity of parties, most of which had no existence outside the personality of their founders, can be explained partly by the government’s interest in dissipating real democratic opposition”.

Critics hold that the creation and sponsoring of dummy political parties whose role is to muddy the political waters, serve as relay points for government’s unpopular position issues of the day, and dilute the strength and votes of the opposition.” If that was the case in 1992 when the CPDM found itself unable to have an absolute majority in parliament, the case isn’t the same today.

The opposition has, because of its egocentric tribal considerations remained disunited. They are criticising the CPDM but doing almost the same thing. There is hardly any difference in the way the CPDM parliamentarian manages his micro-finance grant from the performance of his counterpart in the opposition.

All major opposition political party leaders from John Fru Ndi of the SDF to Bello Bouba Maigari of the UNDP to Adamou Ndam Njoya of the UDC have remained glued to the leadership of their political parties since creation in the early nineties.

They all preach change. They indict President Paul Biya for holding tight to power and resisting change but are doing exactly what the CPDM patron does. And the power-hungry politicians who call themselves leaders tumble over each other to create their own banana political parties.

But does that help to advance Cameroon’s democratisation process? At The Guardian Post, we believe the formation of political parties that exist only on paper, propaganda tracts and small press conferences wreck the advancement of our democracy.

The democratisation process will be better enhanced if the country can have two or three main political parties with known ideologies as it is the case in Britain, the United States or next-door Nigeria.

The government cannot keep talking of promoting “national unity and integration” if political parties are formed on myopic tribal lines. The law for independent candidates in Cameroon ensures that any postulant demonstrates a national acceptance. He is required to obtain at least ten signatures from Councillors, parliamentarians and first class chiefs from all the ten regions of the country.

Shouldn’t the same demonstration of national reception be required for the formation of a political party? Neighbouring Nigeria, for instance, does something close to that by ensuring a political party demonstrates its existence in all the states with a secretariat.

That discourages adventurers from disturbing and slowing down the democratisation process with the formation of useless political parties without a base, just targeting to get tax payers’ money for participating in elections.

The Guardian Post holds that parliament can bring some decency in the political arena by amending the law on creation of political parties to keep political swashbucklers on the fringe of politicking in the name of political party leaders.