YAOUNDE — Cameroon's President Paul Biya was reelected for a sixth term with about 78 percent of the votes cast in the October 9 election, the country's supreme court said Friday.
Biya, who is 78 and has been in power for 29 years, beat long-time opposition leader John Fru Ndi who took just under 11 percent of the vote. A spokesman for Fru Ndi's party rejected the result and vowed to challenge it.
Turnout was 66 percent, down from the 2004 election where 83 percent of eligible voters turned out; and the one in 1997, 81 percent.
Rene Sadi, general secretary of Biya's party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, welcomed the result and said the election had been conducted fairly.
"This choice is the choice of the people," he added.
Evariste Foupoussi, spokesman for Fru Ndi's Social Democratic Fund, vowed Friday to challenge the result.
"The declaration of the results is the confirmation of the scandal, that's all." But he did not say what form their challenge would take.
Earlier this week, Fru Ndi and six other candidates called on the supreme court to "annul this election mascarade", but that bid was rejected.
They vowed to urge their supporters "to come out massively to demonstrate in favour of their right to partake in free and transparent elections" should the results stand.
The opposition has accused Biya of having locked down the entire electoral process in his favour and described the polling as "chaotic" and riddled with irregularities.
US ambassador to Cameroon Robert Jackson on Thursday condemned the running of the election. There had been irregularities at every level, he said, pointing specifically to logistical shortcomings in managing the process and glaring failures to prevent multiple voting.
France, Cameroon's former colonial power, said it had seen no egregious violations in the election.
But Fru Ndi told reporters in Yaounde: "Cameroonians must assume their responsibilities to defend democracy and justice."
And he added: "The candidate proclaimed the winner, whoever it will be, will not have legitimacy."
Biya for his part accused the opposition of trying to destabilise the country. In a statement he condemned their statements as "unacceptable and unjustifiable calls for disorder and violence."
Police had stepped up security in towns across the country, according to sources, while the authorities in Douala, the economic capital, had banned demonstrations, local media reported.
And on Thursday, Cameroon's bishops appealed to people not to heed calls to take to the streets once the result was announced.
"Stay deaf to calls for violence and disorder...," said Joseph Atanga, president of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon.
The country saw flashes of politically fuelled unrest ahead of the vote.
Late last month, armed men dressed as soldiers fired into the air and stopped traffic in Douala, calling for Biya to step down.
A security source told AFP that the men were members of a previously unknown group called the "Cameroonian People's Liberation Army".
Their protest, which caused no casualties, came amid increased calls for Biya to relinquish power.
But rioting in February 2008 against the high cost of living and Biya's plans to cancel the limit on the number of presidential mandates left 40 people dead according to official figures: 139 according to rights groups.
Biya, one of Africa's longest-serving rulers, leads a country regularly tagged by watchdogs as one of the world's most corrupt.
The reclusive president spends much of his time outside Cameroon and was largely absent from public view through much of the campaign.
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