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An autocrat's toolkit: adaptation and manipulation in 'democratic' Cameroon

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Cameroon's President Paul Biya has weathered the transition from a single-party to a multi-party system, dramatically strengthening his control over the political apparatus in recent years. While many have noted the tendency of Africa's new 'democrats' to consolidate their authority by removing various constitutional restraints on their power, this paper argues that Paul Biya has adapted more subtly to the various opportunities provided by open political competition and international discourse on minority rights. Beyond the sadly predictable fraud in electoral counting, he has manipulated electoral boundaries to his party's advantage, while at the same time prohibited voting access to citizens who would likely vote for the opposition. In addition, he has acceded to constitutional changes to recognize minorities in compliance with international and domestic pressures, which is in reality yet another useful tool to marginalize the opposition.

Keywords: Cameroon; Paul Biya; citizenship; constitution; democracy; elections; gerrymandering; language; minority rights; voting restrictions

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Government and Legal Studies, Bowdoin College, Maine, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2011


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