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The government continued to resist electoral reforms in 2009, and the opposition Social Democratic Front party launched a legal challenge to the nomination of election commissioners who it argued were ruling party loyalists. Restrictions on the press also continued during the year, but the publication of a critical report by the government-created National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms marked a step toward open public discussion.
Colonized by Germany in the late 19th century, Cameroon was later administered by Britain and France, first through League of Nations mandates and then as a UN trust territory after World War II. Independence for French Cameroon in 1960 was followed a year later by independence for Anglophone Cameroon, part of which opted for union with Nigeria. The rest joined Francophone Cameroon in a federation, which became a unitary state in 1972.
Cameroon is not an electoral democracy. Although the 1996 constitutional revisions created an upper chamber for the legislature, a decentralized system of regional government, and a Constitutional Court, none of these provisions have been implemented. A 2008 constitutional amendment removed the 1996 limit of two seven-year terms for the president, allowing President Paul Biya to run again in 2011. The president is not required to consult the National Assembly, and the Supreme Court may review the constitutionality of a law only at the president’s request. Since 1992, the executive has initiated every bill passed by the legislature. The unicameral National Assembly has 180 seats, 153 of which are held by the ruling CPDM. Members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms.
The National Elections Observatory (NEO) has little influence, and the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization effectively controls elections. An elections commission, Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), was created in 2006, but the commissioners were not named until December 2008. No civil society or opposition members were included, and 11 out of the 12 appointees were reputedly CPDM loyalists. The SDF launched legal action in January 2009 to contest the body’s impartiality.