Independent candidates vying for seats in the next parliament are optimistic they will emerge victorious from yesterday’s elections.
Vénuste Bizirema, Gilbert Mwenedata, Clovis Ganza and the only female, Léonille Mutuyimana, have been competing for the 53 openly contested seats.
The candidates are required to garner a minimum of 5 per cent of all the total votes in order to win a seat in the legislative assembly.
No independent candidate has won the elections since 2003 when the current Constitution was promulgated.
Speaking to The New Times shortly after casting his vote at 11am, yesterday, an excited Mwenedata said time had come for an independent candidate to represent the people in Parliament.
He voted from Ecole Primaire Kibagabaga Kimironko Sector, Gasabo District.
“I am confident of victory. I have met and talked to many Rwandans across the country and got positive feedback. I hope to won by 100 per cent,” he said.
Mwenedata, 39, promised to advocate for full reconciliation, transparency, and promotion of Rwandan values if he wins the elections.
He commended the electoral commission for conducting peaceful polls.
“I believe in transparency of Rwanda, that is why I did not deploy representatives at polling stations,” Mwenedata said.
At the polling centre where 5,205 people were expected to cast their ballot, the mood was buoyant.
“We haven’t encountered any irregularities. The only challenge is about some people who came to vote without voter’s cards and those whose names were not on the list. We had to send them to places where they registered from,” said Noel Byamungu, the polling officer at Ecole Primaire Kibagabaga.
The Kigali-based businessman expressed optimism that he would sail through by majority votes because of his “impressive” manifesto.
He cast his vote at 8:30am at Ecole Primaire Rwampara, Mburabuturo Cell in Kigarama Sector, Kicukiro District.
“I am sure I will win because Rwandans want an independent candidate to represent them in Parliament. The elections are peaceful and calm, I am not worried of anything,” he said.
Ganza said he never bothered to have representatives at polling stations because he believes in the National Electoral Commission to conduct free and fair elections.
The 32-year-old pledged to champion democracy and the respect of human rights once elected.
Léonille Mutuyimana voted at Kigali Independent University (ULK).
She arrived at the gates of ULK clad in a trim emerald green African traditional garb (kitenge) and a matching head-wrap, at exactly 8:25am.
During the about 120-metre walk from the campus gateway to the Kanyinya polling station, located within the university’s main building, the cheerful Mutuyimana was often briefly stopped and hugged by cheerful supporters.
Mutuyimana, who was accompanied by Marie Jeanne Mujawimana, her younger sister, found her name was not on the voters’ register despite having a valid voter’s card.
But this did not seem to blemish her spirits as she made enquiry on phone and waited for polling officers to sort the anomaly.
At 10:10am polling agents allowed her to vote with her name listed on the available annex list (Umugereka).
“I am so happy. First of all, this is indicative of the self-confidence and belief I have in myself,” Mutuyimana said.
Despite a week-long malaria attack that threatened to derail her campaign, the gospel singer remains self-assured.
“I never lost faith. My supporters multiplied their effort in distributing my pictures and fliers and, soon after, when I was feeling better I was on radios and television and God really supported me. I am sure people have backed me and, I will triumph to get the required 5 per cent,” she said.
Mutuyimana’s campaign manifesto was largely hinged on three issues; promoting virtuous family values and curbing what she calls “rampant divorce”; catering for the needs of the most vulnerable in the Rwandan society such as widows, sex workers, and orphans; and striving to improve welfare by especially advocating for protection of copyrights of artistes.
By press time, Bizirema, who cast his ballot at Amahoro Cell in Gisenyi Sector, Rubavu District, was not available as his known phone was off.
During his campaigns, Bizirema pledged to streamline service delivery through cooperation once elected to Parliament.
The 30-year-old also contested in mayoral elections for Rubavu District in 2011.
The private candidates are tussling it out with political parties that 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).
Others in the race are the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the Liberal Party (PL), and PS Imberankuri.