Moment of truth as voters head to polls

Six million Rwandans are today expected to vote their parliamentary representatives. In the polls scheduled to begin at 7am and close at 3pm, voters will be electing MPs occupying 53 seats that are reserved for members of political parties and independent candidates.

Six million Rwandans are today expected to vote their parliamentary representatives.

In the polls scheduled to begin at 7am and close at 3pm, voters will be electing MPs occupying 53 seats that are reserved for members of political parties and independent candidates.

Tallying will take place at all polling stations (eg, a classroom) after which results will be consolidated at every polling centre (eg, a public school) and then transmitted to the respective NEC district office.

The district election coordinators (30 in total) will then transmit the results to NEC headquarters in Kimihurura, Kigali, according to the Electoral Code.

Political parties in the race include a coalition led by the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) made up of RPF, Centrist Democratic Party (PDC), Parti du Progrès et la Concorde (PPC), Parti Socialiste Rwandais (PSR) and the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI).

Other in the race are the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Liberal Party (PL), and PS Imberankuri, while the independent candidates are Venuste Bizirema, Gilbert Mwenedata, Léonille Mutuyimana and Clovis Ganza.

How to vote

There are eight slots on the ballot paper each allocated to a a political party or independent candidate.

Appearing on a ‘Media Forum’ radio talk-show on Isango Star FM, yesterday, National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairperson Kalisa Mbanda reminded voters to vote in only one slot.

“We had some people asking if they can vote for a political party and an independent candidate of their choice but I want to say this; every voter has to vote in one slot. You either vote for a political party or an independent candidate you can’t vote for both,” said Prof. Mbanda.

He said voters are required to carry their national identity and voter’s cards.

Polling officers will crosscheck the identification against the details on the vote register. The voter will proceed to the voting room where they will be served with a ballot paper and then proceed to the voting booth.

“Everyone will vote from the area they registered from and a voter enters the voting booth alone. They can decide to vote using a thumb or a pen by ticking. Security officers who will be voting are not supposed to enter the polling room armed,” said Prof.  Mbanda.

The electoral code stipulates that preliminary results will be announced before September 20 and the final results on September 25.

He said the commission might be in position to announce preliminary results as early as tonight.

The NEC chief said observers will be allowed to follow the whole electoral process, including tallying and filing of reports.

Statistics

NEC has set up 2291 polling centres in 2148 cells across the country and about 15,500 polling stations in 14,953 villages.

The elections will cost Rwf5 billion, Rwf4 billion less than what was spent in the 2008 polls.

NEC attributed this to improved experience in conducting elections by its staff, proper storage of materials used in previous elections, and the increase in the number of election volunteers. 

A total of 5,953,351 Rwandans, including 31,514 members of Diaspora, are expected to take part in the parliamentary elections, while 72,000 polling officers have been deployed across the country.

Rwanda has 416 sectors, 2,148 cells and more than 14,000 villages. Most polling centres are public primary schools.

Prof. Mbanda said it is criminal to enter a polling booth when there is another voter inside.

“No one is supposed to announce the results apart from NEC and no one is supposed to order someone who to vote for people would be guided on how to vote and that should be done by polling officers publicly without undue influence on who to vote,” he said.
 
How campaigns went

Meanwhile, NEC on Saturday commended parliamentary candidates for having run peaceful campaigns, but said a few hitches occurred at the start of the campaign

Since August, up to 15,410 candidates from political parties, special categories and independent candidates campaigned for 80 seats of the Chamber of Deputies. NEC said the campaigns were conducted peacefully and the public participated actively.
 
Women candidates

Unlike in the past, said Prof. Mbanda, women campaigns were peaceful.

In the past elections, conflicts were reported among women candidates competing for the 24 seats in Parliament, but this time there were no such incidents reported, NEC said.

On campaign coverage, Charles Munyaneza, the NEC executive secretary, commended the media for a job well done in  covering campaigns.

“We have seen new developments in the media, like the synergy that we used to see in countries like Burundi,” he said. “It helped the media to be present in all the corners, thus you could follow a show wherever you could tune in.”

Elections for special categories are due tomorrow (women), and, on Wednesday (youth and disabled), for the remaining 27 seats.

Some 1,600 observers were accredited to follow the elections. They are from Rwandan civil society, government institutions, commissions and political parties. In the region, there are observers from Comesa, EAC, African Union, among others, while other observers include those from the Commonwealth and European Union.

Burundi, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy and Germany, as well as all countries with embassies in Kigali, also sent observers.

 

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