Home » Op-Ed: The Ineffectiveness of Election Boycott as a Strategy

Op-Ed: The Ineffectiveness of Election Boycott as a Strategy

by Guest Author

By Ndifor Richard

The strategy of boycotting elections has long been touted as a means to bring about change in Cameroon. However, even the staunchest supporters of election boycott have come to the realization that it contributes nothing to the struggle for change. In fact, it has had a negative impact on the process itself.

Even when the electoral process is marred by issues of fairness, transparency, and freedom, boycotting elections or succumbing to voter apathy should not be the chosen path. While it is understandable that citizens may feel disheartened or disillusioned by a flawed system, it is precisely during these challenging times that active participation becomes even more critical.

Boycotting elections or succumbing to voter apathy only serves to further entrench the existing power structures and limit the avenues for change. It allows those in power to manipulate the system without any opposition or accountability. By abstaining from voting or boycotting elections, citizens unintentionally relinquish their power to influence the outcome and contribute to the democratic process.

Since the 1990s, when the practice of boycotting elections gained prominence, one must ask: what have we truly achieved? The argument put forth by advocates of boycotts that participation will legitimize the election is nonsensical. In whose eyes are we seeking to delegitimize the elections? The international community they will say. The same international community that recognizes Paul Biya as president, even after major opposition parties boycotts, with him securing an unrealistic 91% of the vote?

In reality, electoral boycotts only provide those calling for boycott a fleeting sense of satisfaction while further consolidating the power of the regime. It adds absolutely nothing to the fight for change; in fact, it has a detrimental effect.

The call by separatists for an electoral boycott for example, has inadvertently benefited the ruling party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM). It fails to contribute anything meaningful to their struggle, paradoxically they have surrendered the very territories they claim to be fighting to preserve to the regime.

Due to the separatists’ call for boycott, the Northwest and Southwest regions have fallen into the hands of the ruling CPDM, granting them complete control over parliamentary seats, councils, and senators in these regions. This outcome is a loss, not a win, even for the separatists themselves. It is clear that the boycott strategy has inadvertently handed over power to the ruling party and undermined the objectives of those who supported the boycott.

Those in power, who benefit from the status quo, understand that they cannot win over the population with their policies and records. Thus, they rely on our frustration and disillusionment. They aim to make it exceedingly challenging for our votes to make a difference and convince us that our voices are insignificant. This is how they secure their victories.

Instead, it is imperative that Cameroonians, especially young people and women, reject the futility of election boycotts and instead actively participate in the democratic process. We must massively register to vote and exercise our right to choose our leaders. It is through active engagement and collective action that we can truly effect the change we desire.

Citizens must seize the opportunity to participate actively, raise their concerns, and demand accountability from political leaders. Through collective action, citizens can apply pressure for electoral reforms, advocate for transparent processes, and work towards building a more inclusive and representative democracy in Cameroon.

The challenges we face as a nation require a united front, where every citizen plays a crucial role in shaping our future. While acknowledging the challenges and shortcomings of the electoral process in Cameroon, it is vital for citizens to resist the temptation of boycotting elections or succumbing to voter apathy. Active participation, even in the face of adversity, provides a platform to voice concerns, demand accountability, and work towards a more inclusive and democratic society. By remaining engaged, citizens can contribute to the ongoing struggle for a fairer and more transparent electoral system that truly represents the aspirations and interests of the Cameroonian people.

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