There was a seemingly low voter turnout at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in yesterday’s parliamentary elections.
When this paper visited the site twice on the Elections Day, the polling stations were almost empty with polling officials seated idle as they waited for voters.
Eligible voters, who were noticeably few, strolled in one by one. The only relatively big crowd at the varsity polling centre was a group of about three dozen students who were rummaging through a pile of uncollected voter’s cards for them to be able to cast their votes.
Many voter’s cards remained unclaimed until the polling stations closed, but officials there said some students, whose names appeared on the voters’ list had been allowed to vote after showing their identity cards.
Over 9,800 people were expected to vote at the Huye-based University, according to Vincent Gashyama, the coordinator of the centre.
But only 6,525 people voted, he said.
The voter turnout stood at about 30 per cent by 1p.m, gradually growing to about 60 per cent by the time the polling stations closed countrywide.
Polling stations opened at 7a.m and closed at 3p.m.
Many of the voters were UNR students and staff.
Officials attributed the low turnout to several reasons.
Pacifique Nduwimana, NEC’s representative in the Southern Province, said many students were yet to report back for studies since the varsity had reopened just a few days ago.
The new academic year started in the first week of September.
Many first year students couldn’t also vote as they registered elsewhere, Nduwimana said.
“We gave a chance to voters who had moved from areas where they had registered from to use mobile phones and transfer their details to places they would like to vote from. But some didn’t do it,” Nduwimana said.
Voters had the option to ask for their election related personal data to be transferred to areas of their choice by sending short messages via mobile phones to the electoral commission or request for the same online.
But some voters said this option was not publicised enough while others claimed they tried to use the service and failed.
Jean Bosco Bikorimana, a second year computer science student at NUR, rued missing “a great opportunity to choose his representatives” in the Chamber of Deputies.
But the story was different in other parts of the Southern Province.
Officials said voters had turned out early and in large numbers, and that the election was conducted smoothly in line with electoral rules and procedures.
Nduwimana told The New Times that by midday the majority of voters had already cast their ballot across the province, with only a handful of voters turning up in the afternoon.
“We are happy with how the poll went,” Nduwimana said.
Over 1.3 million were expected to take part in the vote in the Southern Province, according to official figures.