‘Difficult’ cases – Cameroon

This is series of posts that identifies countries that almost comply with the definition of semi-presidentialism that is used in this blog, but which fail to do so on the basis of a certain, sometimes unusual provision, or where the date when semi-presidentialism started can be contested.

This post examines the case of Cameroon in the 1960s. In 1961 Cameroon adopted a semi-presidential-like constitution. The text is impossible to track down on the internet, but it is available in the Revue juridique et politique d’Outre-Mer at that time.

At that time, the Constitution declared Cameroon to be a Federal Republic, combining the former French and British-administered territories. The French element was politically dominant. However, the federal nature of the system meant that the constitution was organised somewhat differently from its French counterpart, which was the model for most of the countries in the region at the time.

Anyway, this constitution established a directly elected federal president (Art. 9). At the federal level, the president was also the head of government and the cabinet was not responsible to the legislature. So, constitutionally, the Federal Republic of Cameroon was presidential.

However, the constitution also made provision for prime ministers to be appointed in each of the two federated states. The federal president appointed the prime minister in each case (Art. 39) and the PM was subject to an investiture vote that required a simple majority. The state cabinet was also subject to confidence and no-confidence votes (Art. 44) and had to resign if, for example, it was defeated on a no-confidence motion by an absolute majority of the legislature.

So, here is a country that was not semi-presidential, but which had a clear semi-presidential element to it. Indeed, it was the only Africa case to have anything like this type of presidential/prime ministerial arrangement until 1970.

The 1961 Cameroon constitution was repealed in 1972 when the country officially became the United Republic of Cameroon and any reference to the federated states was abolished.

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