Under the 1972 constitution, as amended in 1984, Cameroon has nominally been a republic headed by a president elected by universal suffrage to successive five-year terms (amended to seven-year terms). The president appoints the ministers, vice-ministers, regional functionaries, is the head of the armed forces, and promulgates the laws. Since 1996, the prime minister has been Peter Mafany Musonge. The president can decree a state of national emergency and can be invested with special powers. The next presidential election is scheduled for 2004.
The legislative branch is composed of a National Assembly of 180 members from 49 single and multi-seat constituencies. The Assembly is directly elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage. It meets twice a year, the duration of each session being limited to 30 days. Elections were last held in June and September 2002; the next elections are due in 2007.
Government checks and balances remain extremely weak under a strong executive system. Censorship was abolished in 1996, but the government sometimes seizes or suspends newspapers and occasionally arrests journalists. A 1990 law authorizing private radio and television stations was implemented by decree in 2000; however, the annual licensing fees are prohibitive. Nonetheless, in 2001, over 100 licensing applications were filed by independent broadcasters. The government's human rights record has been improving over the years but remains generally poor.