Presidential polls: Political parties step up preparations

photo

Kicukiro District residents queue to vote during a past election. / File

Presidential elections may be four months away but most of the country’s eleven legally registered political parties say that preparations to participate are in high gear.

Speaking to The New Times, some party representatives said that they are carrying out consultations with party members on a number of things including whether to field a candidate for the August 4 election or form coalitions.

Asked if his party would field a candidate in this year’s elections, the President of the Social Democratic Party (PSD); Dr Vincent Biruta said that a party congress would determine that.

“We are planning to hold our national congress on June 3-4. That is the organ that will determine the candidate and manifesto among other important decisions,” he said.

In the 2010 presidential elections, PSD fielded Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo as its candidate and received 5 per cent of the vote. In the 2013 parliamentary elections, it received 13 per cent of the vote, winning seven seats.

The decision on whether to join the race or not also still hangs in balance for PS Imberakuri.

The party president Christine Mukabunani said that though such an important decision is yet to be made, the senior party bureau members continue to traverse the country, sensitising members about the importance of voting, reminding them of the laws that govern the voting process and the ideal conduct during the election period.

“Our party congress will sit in May and decide if we are to field a candidate in this particular election. Should we decide that we will field one, he or she will be chosen by the congress that very day. We are currently exchanging and collecting ideas and opinions from our members and so far, we have visited at least three districts from each province and the City of Kigali and we are still on the move,” she said.

Things are, however, different for, Democratic Union of the Rwandan People (UDPR), where it’s president, Pie Nizeyimana says they will not field any candidate for the presidential polls.

As UDPR, we will not have a flag bearer from the party but will support the incumbent Paul Kagame. We ended a country tour in March which we used as an opportunity to talk to members of our party about elections and the importance of their participation,” he said.

He said that they will rally the party’s members whom he said number 300,000, to vote for President Paul Kagame, should he be nominated by his party as flagbearer.

On the other hand, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) have already chosen a flagbearer to run in the August polls.

Though it is now official that Dr Frank Habineza will represent the DGPR, the party’s Secretary General Jean Claude Ntezimana said that there is still work to be done.

He said that so far, they had worked on setting up party structures on the district level and were pursuing sponsors for their election budget.

“We have covered 23 districts and are only remaining with seven and we hope that we will be done with them. We already published the political programme and it’s the same one that we will use to come up with a manifesto. Financially, our members have the will to contribute though as of now, we don’t have a particular amount to publicise,” he said.

A recent meeting of the Forum of Political Parties (FFPP); and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) discussed election roadmap.

During the meeting, officials talked about the election law, details about when a candidate can be registered, when to check if the candidate had been approved to participate and other details like the places where for instance, you can or cannot campaign or hang campaign posters.

Making progress

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, Charles Munyaneza, the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission said they are now geared up for the second and last phase of voter register updates, having finished the first one in December.

“This will happen in May and will cover a whole month where all the lists will be sent to all the villages where voters will be checking if they are on the list or if there are corrections that need to be made, etc.

However, online registration is still on, he said.

“We expect to come up with the final list in July. Right now, we are printing voter cards for new voters especially for those that attained voting age since the last election so that they are prepared ahead of time,” Munyaneza said.

“We are also concentrating on the Diaspora and we are trying to increase registration centers and polling stations as requested in last year’s National Dialogue Meeting (Umushyikirano).”

Calendar

According to the electoral calendar, as part of preparations, since February NEC continues to hold consultative meetings with stakeholders and to procure election materials. This particular process ends in July.

From June 5 to 14, 2017, the electoral commission will be receiving applications for presidential candidates and the final list of candidates will be announced on June 27, according to the electoral roadmap.

Campaigns for the qualified candidates will officially begin on July 14 and end on August 3, just a day before the elections.

Close to 6.8 million will participate in the election from 5.7 million who participated in 2010 presidential election, according to the National Electoral Commission.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw