Sixteen independent candidates including one woman have expressed interest to run in September Parliamentary elections, by picking nomination forms from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
According to the Commission’s chairperson, Prof Kalisa Mbanda, the 16 individuals who are not affiliated to any political organisation have already picked nomination forms from the Commission and are currently canvassing the country, seeking the required signatures.
One of the requirements for an independent’s nomination to be considered is to have collected at least 600 signatures from across the country, at least 20 from every district.
Among the 16 prospective independent candidates include one woman while majority of them are young people, Mbanda said.
NEC will start receiving nomination papers from independent candidates as well as lists of candidates from political parties on Thursday, July 12, according to the electoral calendar.
The electoral code also stipulates that for an independent candidate to get a seat in parliament, they must garner at least 5 per cent of the national vote.
No legislator has ever made it to the House on an independent ticket.
Despite some saying that requirements for independent candidates are quite tight and discouraging for individual participation, NEC Chairperson said that this was not true.
“I don’t think requirements for independent candidates are difficult. Over the years, we have seen numbers of independent candidates increase parliamentary elections,” Mbanda said.
For example, Mbanda says, during 2013 parliamentary polls, four individuals picked nominations forms from NEC but only two made it through to the campaign round.
But none of the two independent candidates managed to win a seat in parliament.
“Truth is, the legislature is an important arm of governance where you don’t want every other person coming here and pick nomination forms just because they want to contest. You have to have a firm foundation and are able to have means through which you can deliver to the country.
“We hope that out of these 16 independent candidates who picked nomination forms, majority will go past nomination stage, contest and win seats in parliament,” Mbanda said.
Rwanda’s parliament consists of 80 parliamentarians elected for a 5 year term in the lower chamber.
The lower chamber includes 53 MPs directly elected in general elections, 24 women representatives, 2 youth representatives, and one representing persons with disability.
Rwanda has 11legally registered Political parties and organisations.
During the 2013 parliamentary polls, the governing RPF-Inkotanyi won the general election of MPs with 42 seats out of 53, representing 76.22 per cent.
In 2013, PSD won 7 seats in the lower chamber, while the Liberal Party (PL) became the third biggest party in terms of seats in parliament after winning 5 seats.
Other parties have not more than one seat in parliament.
Each Party was expected to present a list of 80 MP candidates to the Electoral Commission.
However, RPF chose to present 70 candidates. The list which was presented to the Political Bureau last Sunday will be joined by another 10 candidates from other political parties who supported the governing RPF during Presidential Election—before being presented to NEC.
General elections for the 53 MPs are set on September 2 and 3 in diaspora and at home respectively.
On September 4, Rwanda will vote for 24 women representatives through all Districts and Provinces to fill the 30% quota of women representation in Parliament as stipulated by the Constitution.
Electoral Commission’s Mbanda also indicated that over 75,000 volunteers will be used during these Parliamentary elections. And the final voters list to be ready by July 30th, he said.
The National Electoral Commission is expected to spend Rwf5.4 billion in the September polls.
The Executive Secretary of NEC Charles Munyaneza, said that the budget and essential logistics needed for the parliamentary elections are already available.
300 foreign observers expected
Munyaneza also said that the commission has issued out invitations to different election observer groups and they expect between 300 to 400 foreign observers and 2000 local observers.
The expected observers include delegations from regional electoral commissions, regional inter-governmental organizations, civil society and others from Embassies represented in Rwanda.
“No individual observers will be accredited for the parliamentary polls. All observers have to belong to a particular organization or institution,” Munyaneza said.