Parliamentary elections: Hands on experience

“Today, 15th September has been a great day for me. I can now count myself as a Rwandan for I have voted. I woke up at around 3.00 am and went to the polling station to make sure that I voted among the first few”, Said Kayumba Justin a senior four student.
Electoral officials direct voters how to go about it.
Electoral officials direct voters how to go about it.

“Today, 15th September has been a great day for me. I can now count myself as a Rwandan for I have voted. I woke up at around 3.00 am and went to the polling station to make sure that I voted among the first few”, Said Kayumba Justin a senior four student.

Young children of Rwanda who could not vote in the 2003 parliamentary elections were so happy to be part of the process this time. This kind of attitude from the young people, gives the country good hope for the future lies in their hands.

You can never dream of the future when you have not captured the present. The young generation is growing with an important political mindset that will never allow any more suffering  Rwandans. They have learnt that, we do not need to have chaos and violence, to prove that we are in elections- Democracy, as some people would prefer to call. They were part of the calm, free and fair elections.

The kind of atmosphere (calmness) breeds an important culture in Rwanda where people will in future seek their rights without necessarily going wild. Rwanda has been burying its bad history and the last nail on the coffin was hit on the 15th September election.

One of the most important characteristic of a good electoral system is that it must inspire confidence in both process and its results. The likes of young Justin, tell it all. The just ended parliamentary elections saw young voters (for the first time) take the experience with great enthusiasm. The young people with all the vigour could not wait for the sun to rise for them to exercise their right to vote.

“Voting is great. The 2003 election caught me unawares and I never voted, though I had the voting age. That I have made it today, really makes me smile,” remarked Gertrude Mukamusoni, a 27 year old mother of two.

Critics of the election process in Rwanda will have a difficult assignment for they have little to support any of their arguments.

Even if you are not happy with the out come of an election, you can accept it as legitimate, if the electoral system is based on the valued principles.

Take an example of soccer fans; players will have no choice but to accept results even if they lost, so long as the rules of the game were fair. Such is the situation any body will find himself /herself in when trying to be biased.

The best measurement tool for government legitimacy is the level of public participation. An estimated 90% Rwandans participated in the elections hence legitimizing the whole process. Whatever the results, will be bound by a good electoral process in principle.

“The election process has been smooth and the turn up is surprisingly very high. I am very strict and party selected observers must carry documents from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) allowing them to take the positions. I have seen many posing as party representatives without the NEC‘s clearance. Whether they fight me or not I won’t allow them,” said Mujawayezu Silvera an election official at a polling station in Rwamagana. The enthusiasm with which many Rwandans take part in the election crowns it all.

“I cannot accept to miss voting. I will have to find my way, to where I registered since this polling station is refusing to recognize me. Yes, it would haunt me forever if I don’t vote for my party”, said a visibly determined Jackline Mutesi.

The determination and zeal of voters could be evidenced further, in the complaints of those who never voted due to various reasons.

“My boss is very frustrating. He refused me to go and vote at home because his business would be affected. I have sacrificed for others to go but I will not allow this next time. He thinks that he is tricky but I can be trickier”, complained a visibly angry barmaid, Donata Mutoni.

The Rwandan electoral process further qualified itself by allowing voters’ choice in terms of quality and quantity. Voters had a wide range of choice in the three political parties and one independent candidate. They had the choice to select a party that would genuinely represent them-this is an important qualitative choice.

“You know we have three parties and each has its own observer, which is why you see those people here who are not working with the commission (NEC). Their work is to see that justice is done to their party and that people are freely taking their choices”, said Kayitesi Zayinabu, an NEC official at the Cyanya polling station.

In addition, an important pre-election period had laid a good foundation for the elections. Public pronouncements and debates characterized the campaigns all over the country. Parties showed their goals and priorities based on what they believe as the right principles.

Based on the above context, there is no doubt therefore that the in coming legislative assembly will birth an effective government.

Contact: mugitoni@yahoo.com

 

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