CAMEROON held its first free parliamentary elections in decades yesterday, with 32 parties competing for seats in the 180-seat national assembly.
Three large opposition parties - the Social Democratic Party, the Democratic Union, and the Union of Democratic Forces - boycotted the polls.
Leaders for the three parties charged that the pre-election period was too short and the polling system gave the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Rally unfair advantages.
Reports from the capital Yaounde said security forces were strengthened in towns where the opposition had a strong power base. Although the opposition parties that boycotted the polls had called for a general strike Saturday, it appears it was not widely followed.
Cameroon President Paul Biya was forced two years ago to end the one-party system following antigovernment unrest and allow the formation of 48 parties in the West African state.
Mr. Biya, who took power in November 1982, agreed with several opposition parties at the end of last year to hold free general elections.