There may not yet be much of a political hullabaloo in the run-up to the September parliamentary elections, but propagandists are already consumed into unpronounced
political temperatures in quiet search for an edge for their respective political organisations.
While individual politicians are expected to come forward with their own candidatures, most of the preparations are quietly going on in various political organizations to avoid a last-gasp knock-out similar to the one suffered by PPC and all the 16 independent candidates in the September 2003 polls.
Most of the political leaders The New Times spoke to yesterday said their political parties were not taking anything for granted although a few were of the view that it was still quite too early to worry about their fate come polling day.
PSD president, Dr Vincent Biruta, said his party has already instituted a taskforce to handle most of the pre-campaign activities, and that it has come up with several drafts which the party’s political bureau will decide upon.
The Senate president said that preparations were underway to identify PSD members who will constitute a 150-member list of parliamentary candidates from which the top party leadership will choose 80 aspirants to make it to its final list of parliamentary aspirants.
"Each district will elect five candidates after which the political bureau will endorse the final list of not more than 80 members as the law stipulates," explained the country’s number two.
The five candidates from each of the nation’s thirty districts will be elected by party district congresses to be held this month, he added.
Biruta said that his party also formed a committee to spearhead the exercise to mobilize funds for the elections, adding that PSD currently has structures running down to sector level.
"In some cases, we have created structures that go down to the cell level. We continue to reinforce them and to create more," he said.
Biruta also hinted at the possibility of PSD entering into a coalition with other parties by disclosing that his party was open to talks with any party willing to form a coalition.
"We are preparing to run alone but are open to a party who may suggest a coalition," added the PSD chief, whose party was one of the three political organisations that campaigned on their own during the 2003 elections.
At that time, two out of the three parties – PSD and PL – managed to obtain five percent of the total votes cast, winning a combined total of only about a dozen seats among the possible 53 in the Chamber of Deputies.
The other party, PPC, failed to garner a minimum of 5 percent of the total votes cast, a loss that ultimately kept them out of the Lower House. Only President Paul Kagame saved the party’s face by appointing its president, Alivera Mukabaramba, to the Senate.
Incidentally, according to Mukabaramba, PPC may still choose to go it alone despite that fateful campaign which took place just weeks after the party’s creation.
"As far as I am concerned, I don’t foresee the party joining any coalition," Senator Mukabaramba said yesterday. "While we are yet to hold a final meeting on that issue, I believe most of us prefer that we campaign on our own."
She explained that at the moment, PPC leadership was revising its manifesto. "We are editing out programmes that we believe were achieved by the current Government and only adding a few others. The manifesto we had five years ago will largely remain unchanged," she added.
She said that the party was continuing to widen its presence having lately opened offices in all the provinces. "In 2003, we had only an office in Kigali, but we have now opened branches in all provinces," Mukabaramba added.
Servillien Sebasoni, a senior advisor at the ruling RPF Secretariat, said that they were equally engaged with activities related to the upcoming elections.
He said the organisation charged four committees to handle the preparation process. He identified the committees as; national coordination, logistics, mobilization and information.
On his part, Protais Mitali, the president of the Liberal Party (PL), who is also Minister of Youth, refrained from giving details of his party’s preparations claiming that he could not take a position before the party’s top organ decides.
"We have been in preparations (for the elections) since August, last year. We are still organising ourselves as we wait for the new presidential and parliamentary election law to come out," he said insisting that much of the information would be released after the law was out.
A bill proposing slight amendments in the current law is currently under debate in the Chamber of Deputies.
Mitali also refrained from commenting on whether his party prefers a coalition over a unilateral ticket.
Similarly, PDC president and Speaker of the lower chamber, Alfred Mukezamfura, left the possibility for a coalition open, calling it a political strategy that is normally reached by several political groups.
"A coalition is a very good thing, and it is normal. It is a common practice in many countries; you decide to make an alliance before or after the polls, but it all depends on the political players from different affiliations," he said.
He however added that there is a general misconception in Rwanda that such a political deal is caused by weaknesses of certain political parties.
PDC, with only two deputies at the moment, is one of the four smaller parties that struck a deal with the ruling RPF in the previous elections, forming a coalition that went on to sweep up to 74 percent of the 53 designated seats in the august House.
On their part, UDPR have categorically stated that they would prefer campaigning in a coalition than going it single-handedly.
"Given a choice, we would prefer a coalition because the same reasons for which we joined a coalition last time still exist," the party’s president, Claire Kayirangwa, who was recently elected to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), said.
Asked whether it was not due to their weaknesses behind their wish for a coalition, the former deputy said: "You form a coalition to put together your strength. But we think that even without a coalition we now have the ability to run on our own."
"We are discussing the idea (of a coalition) within the party, but we haven’t shared it with any other party," Kayirangwa, whose election to the EALA left UDPR without an official seat in the Chamber of Deputies, added.
She noted that her party had opened branches in several parts of the country and continued to spread out to as many areas, alongside other activities ahead of the September elections. "Our members are getting ready to deal with any situation; whether running in a coalition or not."
By press time, it was not possible to reach leaders of the other four political parties slated to tussle it out in the forthcoming polls, including PDI and PSR – the other two parties that campaigned in the RPF-led coalition in 2003.