29 December 2012

Rwanda: NEC Introduces Online Registration for Voters

Rwandans anywhere in the world, eligible to vote in next year's parliamentary elections, can register online to take part in the exercise, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has said.

The elections are slated for September next year, at the end of the five-year term of the current Chamber of Deputies.

According to the NEC president, Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, online registration will help curb bureaucratic tendencies that characterised previous electoral processes, in some cases frustrating voters, especially those in the Diaspora.

"Use of ICT in the country has gone a notch higher, and the Commission has to move with the trend. People wishing to come to Rwanda now access and fill in visa application forms on line... we want to use the same technology to facilitate voters to register online," he told a news conference on Thursday.

Mbanda said voters will be free to use either their mobile phones or computers to register and the information will be transmitted directly to the Commission's website.

Presently, NEC is developing the software that will run the system.

The new arrangement will also facilitate the electoral observers to register online, he added.

The election commission chief also said the same system will be used for the 2017 presidential elections.

Asked if online voting would be possible at some point, the NEC Executive Secretary, Charles Munyaneza, observed that in the Commission's five-year strategic plan, it is envisaged that nationals may be eligible to vote online just like it is the case in some developed countries.

"We have not yet reached that level at the moment but in our strategic plan of 2012-2017, we are putting much emphasis on service delivery and hope that online voting will be one of the issues to be considered," he said.

Mbanda said the parliamentary elections will cost Rwf8 billion, all of which will be provided by government. He added that preparations for the polls are already ongoing.

The Commission will, however, determine the exact timing of the September polls at a later date, he added.

NEC says it intends to use some of the ballot boxes that were used in the general elections in 2010.

Ballot papers will also be printed locally.

Over 6 million voters are expected to participate in the elections.

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