Another political season is upon us. As many as 521 candidates hit the campaign trail today to vie for the 80 seats in the Lower House.
All of the 11 political organisations operational in the country will be taking part in the forthcoming parliamentary polls, with seven of them joining a coalition led by the governing Rwanda Patriotic Party (RPF)-Inkotanyi, which has won more seats than all the other parties combined since the first post-Genocide legislative elections in 2003.
For the first time, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda will be taking part in parliamentary elections, while both the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) – which have both contested for each of the last three legislative elections, winning several seats each time – are also in the running.
Also to join the contest this year is PS-Imberakuri which will be hoping to do much better than it did in 2013 when it failed to collect the minimum 5 per cent votes required for any party or independent to win a seat.
Four independents, namely; Philippe Mpayimana – who came in a distant second in last year’s presidential polls –, Elissam Salim Ntibanyendera, Ally Husseine Sebagenzi, and Janvier Nsengiyumva, are seeking to become the first people to win a parliamentary seat as independents under the current dispensation.
Both the political organisations and the four independents – a total of 306 candidates – will be tussling it out for the 53 seats that are open to all qualified Rwandans, while 215 others will be competing for the 27 seats reserved for special interest groups – 24 for women, two for youth and one set aside for persons living with disabilities.
So the stage is set and the competing parties appear to be ready to hit the road running.
As the campaigns get underway in earnest today, we urge all the candidates and their representatives to observe the rules governing the exercise, including not engaging in a smear campaign and steering clear of divisive tendencies in an effort to win over voters.
Candidates and participating political organisations should also adhere to the schedules as agreed with the authorities to avoid schedule clashing and to facilitate authorities to provide security and other forms of support as required by law.
This will also ensure that campaigns do not negatively affect the everyday life of Rwandan voters and the public in general during the nearly three-week exercise.
To the voters, we call on you to make time to attend rallies and calmly listen to the candidates’ manifestoes so that you are able to make an informed decision come the September 2-4 poll.
Rwandans are now accustomed to peaceful election seasons and this one should not be any different.