7 August 2017

Rwanda: Polls Met International Standards, Observers Say

Photo: New Times
(file photo)

The just-concluded presidential elections met international standards, according to different observation missions.

Among the missions that commended the manner in which the August 4 election was organised and carried out include the African Union, East African Community, Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

The missions had deployed observers across the country and held meetings with stakeholders including some candidates, National Electoral Commission, Police, civil society organisations, among others.

The observer missions disagreed with and faulted the American government's claims that the polls had been marked by irregularities.

A statement issued by the American government's public diplomacy and public affairs bureau had alleged that there were some irregularities in the exercise.

The African missions, however told The New Times, they found the elections free and fair.

Some observers said that, while on the ground, they found very little deployment by the US.

Dora Byamukama, the deputy head of mission for the EAC observer group, said they only met American observers in Gicumbi District.

Former Malian president Dioncounda Traore, who was heading the AU observer mission, which had deployed all across the 30, districts said that they did not notice any irregularities during the exercise. He said that they also met multiple stakeholders all of whom cited satisfaction with the exercise.

The missions said the elections were peaceful, orderly and had a high citizen participation.

With elections often being a costly exercise in most African countries, the African Union mission commended the use of volunteers as polling staff and local production of election materials which they said had seen a significant reduction in the cost of the elections.

Former Malian president Traore commended the innovation which he said had cut on the budget.

The presidential elections cost about Rwf 6.2 billion, down from about Rwf7bn incurred in the 2010 elections.

Traore also noted the high participation of women in the electoral process, both as voters and as electoral staff. Women voters were about 54 per cent of the electorate, and over 46 per cent of electoral staff.

The former Malian president lauded the independent candidate Phillippe Mpayimana and Democratic Green Party's Frank Habineza for graciously conceding defeat.

The missions also commended the pace and speed in vote tally and relay of results by the National Electoral Commission.

The EAC head of observer mission, Moody Awori, cited professionalism of local media during election coverage.

"The media in Rwanda exercised a free rein in covering the campaigns for the 2017 presidential election. Campaign rallies were given wide coverage by the local media. It was noted that the media, including the public broadcaster, Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (Radio and Television), gave equal airtime to the three presidential candidates to market themselves to the electorate," he said.

Awori a former Kenyan vice president, said the campaign period was as per provided for by the legal framework.

"There was no illegal use of state resources, defamatory statements or attempts to corrupt voters during the electoral campaign period," he said.

Bishop Mary Nkosi, who headed the COMESA election observer team, said that there was high citizen involvement in the preparation of polling stations and turnout, which she said reflects the openness of the process.

Going forward, the teams made recommendations to the National Electoral Commission and parliament to be considered in the planning of future elections.

Among the recommendations was for parliament to consider initiating legistlation to provide for public funding for campaigns for all the candidates.

AU recommended that NEC considered serialising and validating their ballot papers to prevent any use of counterfeit papers.

Candidates were also asked to consider deploying agents at all polling stations to monitor and observe voting and tallying. Only RPF-Inkotanyi had deployed observers across the country.

Habineza said on polling day he deployed 500, agents while Mpayimana said he had 100.

The National Electoral Commission is set to officially declare incumbent president, Paul Kagame as the official winner later today or tomorrow.

The commission is allowed by law up to seven days after the election to officially declare the winner. The elections had a 96.4 per cent turnout, with Kagame winning by 98.63 per cent.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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