8 January 2013

Rwanda: Imberakuri Rules Out Coalition with RPF

Rwandan opposition leader Christine Mukabunani, who heads the Parti Sociale Imberakuri party (P S Imberakuri), says her party will not enter any coalition with the ruling RPF party for the parliamentary elections slated for September.

The youthful politician, who is a lecturer at Kigali Institute of Education, said this during a ceremony to swear in 65 party delegates on December 11.

"We don't share the same ideology with RPF and besides we want our party to be strong, the only way to do that is not aligning ourselves with other parties," says Mukabunani, also spokesperson for the National Political Parties forum.

PS Imberakuri was formed in 2009 as a breakaway faction from the Parti Sociale Democrate (PSD) when some of the party members accused PSD leader Dr.Vincent Biruta, who doubles as Education Minister of not doing anything as party supporters were continuously being harassed.

"We could not continue being in a party where the party leader would not try to intervene as party supporters were continuously being harassed,"Mukabunani adds.

PS Imberakuri would later run into trouble as its former leader Bernard Ntaganda was imprisoned for four years after being found guilty by the High Court of endangering national security, "divisionism" - inciting ethnic divisions - and attempting to organise demonstrations without official authorisation.

Ntaganda was later voted out as president of PS Imberakuri after his party accused him of promoting divisionism, ethnic politics and forming coalitions with other parties without informing the party organs and Christine Mukabunani was elected President of the Party.

Lessons from US

As her party gears for their first parliamentary elections, Mukabunani who is one of a few politicians that were selected to observe and follow the US Presidential campaigns and elections says that she learnt a few lessons from 'the world's best democracy' and plans to use them in the parliamentary elections.

Mukabunani says her one month sojourn in the US gave her hope that democracy can be achieved when fought for it.

"We will be appealing to our supporters not to wither when the times are bad because what I learnt is that hard work and determination pay off," said the tough talking politician.

Government to fund elections

The Government will cover the full election costs for the first time totaling to Rwf6billion according to the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission Charles Munyanzeza.

Munyanzeza justifies this saying the country is trying to break the barrier of unnecessary conditions or external influences set by donors.

"Our policy just like where the country is going is not to rely on external funding. The election budget will be covered 100% by the government. Our major challenge is to work within the range of what the government can afford," adds the country's head of the Electoral body.

In 2008, donors covered most of the budget worth Rwf6billion but the budget will be slightly smaller because the commission has most of the facilities such as ballot boxes, a printer for ballot papers, civic education materials, and voter cards.

No Facilitation for elections

Rwandan laws don't permit the Electoral Commission to give political parties money for parliamentary or presidential elections nor does it allow political parties to solicit money from foreign parties or NGOs.

Mukabunani, who will also be campaigning for a parliamentary seat sees this as the party's biggest challenge and says her party is urging members to increase their monthly party contributions.

"It is difficult to compete with RPF because the party has multi-million businesses, so we are encouraging our members to increase their monthly contributions. We will try to counter that by different strategies."Mukabunani says but refuses to divulge the said strategies.

PS Imberakuri members who are employed contribute 5% of their monthly salaries while those who are unemployed contribute 100 cents.

Although the government does not give money to politicians for campaigns, the parties which garner 5% of the total votes which allows them to be represented in the parliament always get unspecified amount from the government in form of compensation after the elections.

However the monies given by the Electoral Commission are not exactly what the party uses in the campaigns but "what government can afford and it is always uniform for all parties," NEC's Munyanzeza explains, adding that the reason for not giving parties money before campaigns is to discourage them from misusing it or people forming parties just to benefit from such money.

RPF's financial muscle is reflected in the number of lawmakers that they have in parliament. Out of the 53 Members of Parliament (MPs) representing political parties, RPF has 35 while Parti Social Democrate (PSD) which is led by former Senate President and current Minister of Education Dr.Vincent Biruta has 7 MPs.

Liberal Party (PL) headed by Minister of Sports and Culture have 4 lawmakers while Parti Democratique Islamique (PDI) headed by the Minister of Internal Security Musa Fazil Harerimana has 2 MPs. Parti Democrate Centriste (PDC), Parti Social Rwandaise (PSR), Party for Congress and Concord (PPC) and L'Union Democratique du Peuple Rwandais (UDPR) each has one representative in the lower chamber of the deputies.

Rwanda uses the electoral system of proportional representation unlike other EAC member states like Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania where MPs represent a particular constituency. Rwanda's system ensures that one political party cannot take all the seats in parliament because every party that gets 5% sends a representative to parliament.

The Rwandan parliament consists of 80 members, 53 come from political parties, 24 represent women, 2 stand for Youth while the disabled are represented by one.

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