10 things you need to know about the 2018 parliamentary elections
In September, Rwandans will vote for Members of Parliament who include; 53 directly elected MPs, 24 women representatives, 2 youth MPs and 1 representative for persons with disability.
According to Article 79 of the constitution, the President is required to dissolve the Lower House (Chamber of Deputies) in a period not more than 30 days and not later than 60 days before the expiry of the term of the sitting parliament.
As many voters prepare who to vote for, here are a few facts you would like to know before you vote
The parliament of Rwanda consists of two chambers; the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. This year Rwandans will vote for deputies for another 5-year term.
A total of 80 new members of parliament will be voted for. 53 directly elected MPs from political parties like Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liberal Party (PL) while the other 27 seats are reserved for special interest groups including women, youth and persons with disability.
Who is eligible to vote?
Every Rwandan in the country or out of the country who has attained the age of 18 and above can vote as long as their name is on the voter’s register which is in every village (Umudugudu).
About 7.1 million people are expected to take part in the polls with new voters estimated at 200,000. Anyone who has been convicted for genocide crimes, murder, rape, and child sexual abuse cannot vote but the courts also have discretion to determine whether people convicted of other crimes remain with the right to vote or not after finishing their sentences. People who are on trial and refugees are also not allowed to vote.
The parliamentary elections are set for September 2, 2018 for the Diaspora who will vote from their respective embassies while voters in Rwanda will cast their ballots the next day.
On September 4, people will vote for the special interest groups which include women representatives, youth and persons with disabilities.
What does it takes to be a member of parliament
To get a seat in parliament, a political party or independent candidate needs to score 5% of the votes cast. Political parties share the rest of the seats in proportion to the percentage they get from the elections.
Political parties and independent candidates
Rwanda has 11 legally registered political parties which are required to submit lists of their 80 aspirants for vetting and approval to the National Electoral Commission (NEC)
When a party gets 5% and above, the number of seats are given to the members according to the position they feature on their party lists.
Parties are allowed to align if they think it gives them a better chance of getting their MPs elected. The final list of the approved candidates will be released on August 6 by the NEC. While the parliamentary campaigns will officially kick off on August 13 and end on September 1.
The government has reserved 24 out of the 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies for women (64%). The 24 seats allocated to women are divided up between each province and the city of Kigali and are elected through the National Women Council structures.
By law, every party needs to have 30% of their candidates to be women, which means Rwanda’s parliament has the highest percentage of women in parliament worldwide.
NEC has invited different election observer groups and expect between 300 to 400 foreign observers and 2000 local observers.
The observers include delegations from regional electoral commissions, regional inter-governmental organizations, civil society and others from Embassies represented in Rwanda.
No individual observer is accredited for the parliamentary polls. All observers have to belong to a particular organization or institution.
People with disabilities
Over 300,000 persons with disabilities will participate in the parliamentary elections on September 2. One seat in the parliament is reserved for people with disabilities.
To ensure that PWDs are well catered for, The National Electoral Commission intends to have some of them as polling agents on Election Day. And visually impaired people will be facilitated to vote using Braille.
This year’s parliamentary elections will be covered by government and is expected to cost between Rfw5 and Rfw6 billion.
Responsibilities of the elected deputies
The election results will be released not later than September 16 and the winners are sworn in as deputies shortly after that. MPs’ responsibilities include enacting, reviewing and amending laws, supervising all government activities, and representing citizens in government.
Source of funding for campaigns
Parliamentary candidates are allowed to seek contributions from corporate companies and individuals but are not allowed to solicit funds from foreign organisations and countries.