Campaign period for candidates ahead of the August 4 Presidential Election is ample, the National electoral Commission (NEC) said yesterday, responding to complaints from some aspirants.
Some presidential hopefuls have complained that the period set by the NEC for campaigns is “too short.”
According to electoral calendar, presidential campaigns will run from July 14 to August 3. During these 19 days, candidates are expected to cover all the 30 districts canvassing for votes.
Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, said “the short time set for campaign will force us to cover at least two districts in a day and this is going to be hard for us to rally voters.”
“We were also planning to travel to some countries like the US, Belgium and UK to engage our Diaspora community but I don’t know if time will allow.”
Gilbert Mwenedata, an independent, said any period less than a month would not be enough for any candidate to traverse the whole country.
“It is really difficult but we will see what to do. There is nothing to change in the election calendar but it would have been good if they had planned for more than a month of campaigns so candidates fully cover all the 30 districts,” he said.
But in response, NEC Executive Secretary Charles Munyaneza told The New Times that the 19 days would be “enough” if the candidates plan their rallies well ahead of time.
“This is not the first time we will be having Presidential Election campaigns organised for such a period and we have never had complaints. Besides, Rwanda is not a big country for a candidate not to cover a district in the morning hours and visit the second in the afternoon and still finish before 6:30pm (as the law requires). They (candidates) just have to plan their campaign rallies well,” he said.
Munyaneza added that the perception to have longer time for campaigns could have been influenced by regional political atmosphere, which he says shouldn’t be a benchmark for the local electoral process.
“Rwandans have other things to do beyond elections. You realise that during electoral period people tend to leave their jobs for campaigns, all that kind of excitement tends to cost the country other opportunities for socio-economic growth. We, therefore, believe that the time we have set for campaign is long enough to allow candidates reach out to the voters without affecting other activities,” Munyaneza added.
He urged candidates to also use media platforms and to send campaign managers in places they won’t be able to reach physically for campaigns.
NEC started receiving candidatures for presidential aspirants on Monday, and Habineza and Mwenedata have already submitted their bids.
The electoral commission is expected to announce the provisional list of candidates on June 27, and publish the final list on July 7, after which campaigns will be flagged off a week later.
Presidential election takes place on August 3 for Rwandans in the Diaspora and August 4 in the country.