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Constitution amended to open door for Biya's third term

Article published on the 2008-04-10 Latest update 2008-04-11 10:02 TU

Cameroon's President Paul Biya(Photo : AFP)

Cameroon's President Paul Biya
(Photo : AFP)

Cameroon’s parliament voted to change the constitution Thursday, allowing President Paul Biya to run for a third term in office. The amendment passed 157 votes for and 5 votes against, with 15 members walking out to protest what they called a "constitutional coup d’état". The controversial reform also gauranteed immunity to the president when he leaves office.

“The majority in parliament in collusion with the government in place was determined to amend the constitution to keep the possibility for President Biya to stay in the saddle for life,” said National Assembly Vice-President Joseph Nbah Nbam.

Nbam, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was among MPS who walked out of parliament after an attempt to prolong the debate was rejected.

Biya has been in power since 1982 and his party, the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, has 153 of the 180 parliamentary seats.

The amendment to change the constitution, which previously limited presidents to two terms in office, was first proposed at the beginning of the year, and sparked protests.

These protests then grew and fused with unrest over rising food prices, whihc reached their high point in late February and led to the deaths of between 40 and 100 people according to the government and human rights organizations, respectively.