Exclusive: Rwanda electoral body defends the parliamentary electoral system as suitable to citizens

KIGALI — Rwanda’s executive secretary of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Charles Munyaneza has dismissed some people’s criticism that Rwanda’s parliamentary electoral system doesn’t allow the voters to know whom they vote and that it allows legislators not to be accountable to the citizens.

Munyaneza was quoted in an exclusive interview with Xinhua saying that the system was designed to suit in the Rwandan context and the lawmakers drafted the law to avoid what could lead Rwandans back in the tribalism which led to genocide.

“We don’t have different constituencies where we say this person is going to be elected in this sector to represent those specific people. We thought that would not help in promoting our national unity and reconciliation.” He said

According to him, voting the MPs calling them representatives of a certain group of people who live in the same region is not the best way to hold the formers accountable to the voters as it may bring negative effects including tribalism.

“The proportion system we have, allows different people to come in parliament.

We don’t have to belong to this group of people, a so-called tribe to be elected and we have seen the effect of this system in some neighboring countries where the election has become tribal and people have lost lives and others fled.” Munyaneza added.

He pointed out that the same system will be used in the upcoming parliamentary elections to be held on September 2-4 this year.

“These political parties provide the lists of their candidates and when they are going to campaign, they show the public (voters) those people who are on their lists. So, I think this problem of saying that they don’t know the MPs is not an issue.” Munyaneza explained.

He added that political parties and their candidates are held accountable after the elections because they even visit the voters and show them the legislators whom they voted.

According to Oswald Burasanzwe, secretary of Political Parties’ Forum said that Rwanda’s electoral mechanism governs Rwandans to elect 53 out of 80 parliamentarians through political parties but added that Rwandans can change so if they wish.

Yvonne Ishimwe, Communication Assistant and advisor youth committee in Social Democratic Party believes that single constituency’s system is better for citizens, and they should know that the party will push forward what was promised to the Rwandans either her or any other party candidate selected to represent them in parliament.

Clarifying that it is the party to deliver in citizens’ interest notably the values of the party should be strictly serving the interest of the Rwandans.

“I don’t buy the idea of picking strange people from the public scene and put them in parliament. For instance, you will hear someone like a nurse or a teacher singled out and put on the list to become an MP while he or she does not have any other political background,” Oswald  Niyonzima a University lecturer said.

Niyonzima suggested that citizens should be allowed to directly choose MPs or build a system through which all parties’ members can have a sign in making the list.

He stressed that the lists are made by heads of parties. In case they go an extra mile to allow people to vote they will only help in selecting who should appear on the list, but not determine who should come first and who should follow.

“I would vote for a person to represent me, because voting for a party to represent me however much charismatic they may be, they might not be able to abide by their rules because, there will be disagreements along the way and I will not hold the party accountable once they don’t voice for me,” Joan Kaliza, a resident of Kigali city said.

She added: “Rwandans should be given a choice to vote for candidates they believe in, those who will be able to make good laws and who will really represent them.”

However, Claire Kanyana, a second-year student at the Independent University of Rwanda (ULK) said that people should select people from their areas knowing their honesty and capacity to represent them.

She noted that considering Rwanda’s situation whereby one party rules over the ghost parties in the coalition, the electioneering system favors those small parties in the coalition while oppressing those which don’t want to join the coalition.

She added that the system is better for politicians because people know parties better than hundreds or thousands of people who can compete for 80 seats.

According to NEC calendar, Rwandans in diaspora will cast their votes on September, 2 while the general election will be held on September,3, across the country.

On September, 4 there will also elections for categories represented in the parliament including 24 seats reserved for women, 2 MPs elected by youth and one for handicapped, said Munyaneza.

The 2010 Senate’s research revealed that Rwandans trusted in political parties at 53.7 percent while 2014 research indicated that it rose up to 61.3 percent.

The Rwanda Governance Board’s research conducted in 2017 revealed that Rwandans appreciate political parties’ role in country’s development at only 57.2 percent.

The previous parliamentary elections were held in September, 16 to 18,2013, According to NEC.

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