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Yaounde - Cameroon's 5.4 million voters head to the polls on Monday for legislative and local polls set to shore up the strong parliamentary majority of President Paul Biya's ruling party.
President Biya has been accused of failing to adhere to a regular timetable for elections in order to ensure victory for his own People's Democratic Movement (RDPC) party, which holds the majority of seats in the National Assembly and municipal bodies.
The terms of the current cohort of deputies elected in the last polls in 2007 expired in 2012, but have been extended on three separate occasions.
Eighty-year-old Biya has served as president of Cameroon since 1982.
The ruling party is looking to “consolidate the hegemonic majority it has enjoyed since the 2007 elections”, said political commentator Mathias Nguini Owona.
The main goal of the opposition parties, including the Social Democratic Front which currently holds 16 seats, is to not lose ground in the Assembly and in the municipalities, he added.
“We are likely to see a confirmation of the RDPC's hyper-domination because the electoral contest is greatly unequal,” said Owona.
Opposition parties regularly accuse the ruling party of electoral fraud and of using state assets to wage their campaigns while their opponents face financial troubles.
After two decades of challenges to virtually every election result in the oil rich but poverty stricken country, both sides admit that the latest campaign has failed to capture the public's imagination.
“This lack of enthusiasm is indicative of the lack of confidence Cameroonians (have) in the electoral regulator Elecam,” said Owona.
The polling stations were due to open at 8am (07h00 GMT) and close 10 hours later. The country's borders have been closed since Saturday and will remain so until the day after the vote.
In all, 29 parties are putting up candidates in the legislative elections.
In October 2011, Biya was re-elected after beating long-time opponent John Fru Ndi. The United States and France pointed to “irregularities” in the voting process.
The government in 2006 launched a high-profile campaign to tackle rampant corruption, arresting a number of prominent figures including former ministers and heads of public companies. - Sapa-AFP