Cameroonian President Paul Biya who has been in power since 6 November 1982 is seeking his seventh term in office.
Elecam, the electoral agency, has cleared the nine candidates to run for the presidency from a list of 28 aspirants who had submitted their bids.
The poll agency said one of the candidates withdrew while “18 were rejected for various reasons related to the provisions of the Electoral Code.”
Two of the nine contenders – Garga Haman Adji of Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) and Adamou Ndam Njoya of Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU) – were in the race during the last presidential election in 2011.
The others, running for the first time, are Joshua Osih of Social Democratic Front (SDF); former Transparency International president, Akere Muna of the Popular Front for Development (PFD); former Biya loyalist Prof Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC); Cabral Libii of the National Union for Integration Towards Solidarity (UNIVERS); Ndifor Frankline of the Cameroon National Citizen Movement (CNCM); and Serge Espoir Matomba of the United People for Social Renovation (UPSR).
President Biya’s main challengers will be Mr Osih from the main opposition party SDF and Mr Muna, a lawyer and former head of the country’s bar association.
But political pundits say it will be difficult to unseat the 85-year-old leader.
A group of 20 opposition party leaders have already thrown their weight behind the candidature of incumbent. The “G20” among who four were in the race to unseat Biya in 2011, said they decided to give their “total and unconditional support” because the veteran leader “possesses the qualities and wherewithal necessary for the maintenance of peace, stability, national unity, economic progress and the respect of Cameroon in the international community.”
Should he win, President Biya and his Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement (CPDM) party will rule for another seven years.
Cameroon has a one-round presidential election system where a candidate only requires to garner the most number of votes to be declared winner.
In most African countries that practice the one-round electoral system, incumbents have always emerged victorious. Such a system, some Cameroonians claim, has enabled President Biya’s more than three decades stay at the helm.
The 2018 presidential election comes at a time Cameroon is faced with several challenges including a separatist movement in its two English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions.
The Anglophone separatists who have been clamouring for secession and the creation of the Republic of Ambazonia, have warned that they would not allow any election organised by the Yaoundé regime to take place in “their country”.
President Biya is Africa’s second longest-serving head of state. Only his Equatorial Guinea counterpart Teodoro Obiang’ Nguema Mbasogo is ahead of him, by three years. In Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso has now served 34 years in two different stints, from 1979 to 1992 and then again since 1997.