The previous presidential elections on 9 October 2011 saw incumbent president Paul Biya elected for another seven-year term following a 2008 constitutional amendment that removed term limits, allowing Biya to run again. Going into the 2018 elections Cameroon experienced unrest in the English-speaking portions of the country where separatists have attempted to create the state of Ambazonia. The worst of the unrest occurred in Manyu where several Western countries issued travel warnings to their citizens. The Social Democratic Front, a party that traditionally performs well in the English-speaking portions of the country, has been vocal in their criticism of the handling of the unrest. Biya has responded to the unrest by stating that he would like to see faster progress made on decentralization reforms that were begun in 2010 so that local regions would have more self governance.
On 15 June 2018, the BBC obtained a copy of a letter from Paul Biya to the leader of Cameroon's Senate, appearing to request that the elections be postponed until October 2019. In July President Biya announced that the election would be held on October 7, 2018.