After many observers commended the manner in which the National Electoral Commission (NEC) conducted the recently concluded presidential elections, it now plans to do even better the upcoming 2011 local government elections. The New Time's Godfrey Ntagungira, on Monday talked to the Executive Secretary of NEC, Charles Munyaneza on the Commissions future plans.
Currently the commission is in a new mood, the next are local government elections scheduled February- March 2011. During the upcoming elections, Rwandans shall vote their leaders from village level to district and Kigali City levels. Preparations for the local elections shall start in mid October with updating voters register in all villages.
As the electoral commission, we hope that the efforts and enthusiasm Rwandans showed during the presidential elections should be the same in the upcoming local elections.
Rwandans voted their President on August 9, 2010; they should not adopt a laid-back attitude, because the president they voted in office needs local government’s new team so that he can fulfill his election manifesto.
In the upcoming elections among the officials to be elected include right from village level leaders, district mayors, district councilors, representatives for women and the disabled.
When someone says that Rwanda is about to hold local government elections, it means that the mandate for the elected local government officials will hit its expiration date by February 2010.
That’s why NEC has set priorities on civic and voter education campaign, to make sure that Rwandans understand the importance of local elections; thus participate meaningfully; on one hand as voters, on the other as candidates for various elective posts. We have also submitted the election calendar to the minister of local government who will take it to cabinet for approval.
NEW VOTER ID CARDS
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) is set to deploy new voter ID cards as part of their preparation of the up-coming elections next year.
It has been agreed that there was need for new ID cards to make the election a lot smother.
NEW VOTER REGISTRATION
The Electoral Commission is preparing to launch another voter registration exercise for the upcoming local government elections in order to increase participation of citizens in elections. With this voter register update, the NEC aims mainly at correcting the shortcomings that were encountered during presidential elections.
We still expect Rwandans to participate in the activity of updating voter registration exercise even if they did it recently in the process of Presidential elections.
The process for the updating of the voter register provided for universal suffrage and the inclusion of photos on the final voter register was a positive feature. By mid October we plan to take the voters register for upgrading and take note we are going to do this in two phrases. Based on the one we used in the presidential elections.
This time voter registration exercise has been decentralized to ensure that those eligible to vote are registered as the commission plans to establish 12 centers across the country and the centers will be fully equipped with the required equipments.
This means that through the decentralized approach correcting the errors will be much easier since the registration process will be done closer to the public. Preparing the voters register is a complicated job for any electoral commission, so that’s why we determined to prepare earlier to give us ample time to determine who is eligible to vote.
CIVIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN
NEC is again to embark on a civic education campaign to sensitize people on the importance of voting. In the process we will be making Rwandans aware of the importance of voting as the outcome of elections determines their future social-economic development.
As for the specificity of local elections from the experience of the previous ones, some people tend to underestimate the elections; voters did not know exactly what should be the mandate of the local leaders, and some of those who stood in the elections did not know the task ahead.
The main advantage this time, we still have the staffs that are well trained, it will not cost us much as many were trained. Coming next year Rwandans will do so by voting for people who have integrity and capacities in the upcoming local elections, for local leaders play a vital role in implementing various policies at grassroots level aimed at local economic development.
The timing of local elections can be seen as a challenge because some people could adopt a laid-back attitude, having just come from presidential elections.
NEC already anticipated the possible challenge is prepared to overcome it. In 2006 NEC organized the second local government elections, given that the constitution provided a five-year term for local leaders.
Even though these elections were transparent and fair, the lack of a democratic tradition resulted in organizational challenges, most notably the fact that the preparations were given too little time which led to a frenzy of activity, this has given NEC valuable experience to ensure improvement in the upcoming election.
We have learned lessons from the past elections; we are to launch early preparations of elections to avoid crash programs that could lead to a crisis. In a local election, you vote for the councilors who run your local services.
However, the final calendar indicating the exact days for the exercise is yet to be approved by the Cabinet.
RWANDA VOTERS REGISTER TO GO ONLINE
The national voters register is soon to be posted online where the public will be able to access it by logging on to the Electoral Commission’s website. A highly secure online system for checking results is designed where the public will be able to access voters register databases by providing their registration number and then their results are displayed in non modifiable format through web based application.
This system will be able to display the voter’s registration details and additional promotional information about NEC. One will have to follow simple steps that involve filling in the name and address; polling station to get the register, the initiative is intended to ease access for people who have Internet facilities.
In a related development, NEC is also working to develop an SMS messaging system that will allow any voter with a cell phone to verify his or her voter registration status and polling station.
The voters will have to send their details to a given number and they will get a confirmation whether their name appear on the list.
To achieve this, the electoral commission is working together with our local Telecommunication companies to post our national entire voters register online in a searchable and secure format.
The online system will make the vote registration more transparent and accessible by allowing individual voters to verify their registration status and polling stations via the internet or cell phones.
The idea behind this initiative is to render our voter registry more transparent and accessible, posting this document online should boost voter confidence in Rwanda’s electoral processes, improve the effectiveness of voter registration display process, reduce confusion over polling assignments and reinforce the foundations necessary for free and fair elections.
On 9 August 2010 Rwanda held voting for the country’s second Presidential election since the 1994 genocide. The national electoral commission was well prepared for the elections and exhibited a high standard of organisation.
Election observers generally noted that the recent presidential elections were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere where candidates enjoyed freedom of movement and assembly.
Universal suffrage was provided for, there was a very high voter turnout and the process was well administered by the NEC.