President Paul Biya will seek re-election in 2018, a minister and senior official of his ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party said on Sunday.
The nation’s long-serving leader has been in power for 33 years and is one of a shrinking number of long-serving African presidents or strongmen. He is 82.
“We are preparing for the president to be the party’s candidate [in 2018],” said Jacques Fame Ndongo, the minister of high education and CPDM communication secretary.
Ndongo’s remark on CRTV’s Actualité Hebdo did not come as a surprise but was the closest the party’s leadership had come to setting a stage for Biya’s possible 2018 run.
The comments were based on a party rule that automatically qualifies the chairman of the CPDM as presidential candidate. As long as Biya is chairman, he is “our candidate”, Ndongo said.
“He is not the natural candidate but a statutory candidate,” said the minister, a hard-core Biya supporter who once described himself as a “creation” of the president.
Biya refused to confirm or deny his 2018 ambition earlier this year at a joint press conference with visiting French leader Francois Hollande. The election was still far off, he said.
He took power in 1982, following the resignation of Cameroon’s only other president Ahmadou Ahidjo. In 2008, he had parliament remove term limits from the constitution and sought his current term.
The president, who will be 85 in 2018, has repeatedly come under fire for holding on to power. Only three other African leaders have been in power longer than Biya.
“It is not one who desires, but one who can, who can hold power for a long time,” the president famously said at the news conference in July.