By Tansa Musa
YAOUNDE, July 19 (Reuters) - Cameroon holds one-sided parliamentary elections on Sunday expected to strengthen President Paul Biya's 25-year grip on power, although his opponents are already saying the vote is rigged.
Biya's Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) is seeking to increase its 149 seats in the 180-member parliament, amid opposition claims the president wants a landslide to push through constitutional reforms to allow him a new term.
With many disillusioned Cameroonians convinced the CPDM will romp to victory, campaigning has been low-key in the oil-producing Central African country.
Just 5.5 million of Cameroon's 18 million population have registered to vote -- well below the 8 million voters needed to make the elections credible, diplomats say.
"Whether we vote or not the CPDM will always win!" said 49-year-old Arbold Abena as he heckled a CPDM party activist who was pasting up electoral posters in Yaounde.
"It is only now (at election time) you people acknowledge us. When it is time to eat, we are not there!" he added.
Opposition parties have denounced the multiple registration of voters and the appearance of dead or under-aged voters on the electoral roll, plus the CPDM's monopoly over the state media.
Opinion polls have been banned and the media prohibited from publishing results from individual polling stations. International observers boycotted the polls after the government ignored their calls to create an independent electoral watchdog.
"Do not dream of any transparency or the fact that the election can be free and fair," said local political analyst Shanda Tonme. "What is happening is just a reminder of previous elections since the return of multiparty politics."
Biya, one of Africa's longest serving leaders, took power as the hand-picked successor of ex-President Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1982. He introduced multiparty elections in 1992 and reformed the constitution in 1996 to limit the presidential mandate to a maximum two terms, extending each period to seven years.
With Biya's second term due to expire in 2011, the opposition has said it can not afford to boycott the polls.
"We have learnt that Biya wants to modify the constitution to run for a third term," said John Fru Ndi, chairman of the main opposition SDF party. "This we cannot allow to happen!"
The opposition, however, has denounced the Territorial Administration Ministry's preparations for the elections, saying it has redrawn the electoral map to favour the ruling party and has rejected scores of opposition candidates.
In contrast with previous elections, the streets of Yaounde have remained relatively bare of posters.
Some residents believed a government anti-corruption drive, part of a package of IMF-backed measures to secure debt relief, had curbed funding of publicity for candidates.
"Most of the people who used to sponsor these things for the ruling party are in prison or in detention awaiting their turn," said Dieudonne Mbous, a vendor at the central market in Yaounde.