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President Paul Biya yesterday claimed victory in Cameroon's first democratic presidential election amid criticism from the opposition and foreign observers.

The ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Party released unofficial figures showing that President Biya had won the Sunday poll.

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But foreign observers reported "serious problems regarding the conduct of the election process." The Washington-based National Democratic Institute, which sent 19 observers to the West African country, criticized the government's refusal to register as many voters as possible and inconsistent procedures at polling stations.

Following two days of violence and looting, the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) has asked people to wait peacefully until the Supreme Court announces the official result, due by Oct. 21.

SDF leader John Fru, a populist challenging Biya's 10-year reign, says the government wants to provoke unrest to justify a security crackdown.

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