5 million Rwandans register to vote in upcoming presidential elections

Charles Munyaneza, the executive secretary of Rwanda’s electoral body, has said that 5 million Rwandans, over half of the country’s population, have been registered for the forthcoming presidential elections according the National Electoral Commission (NEC). According to Munyaneza , “The number of Rwandans ready to cast their votes in the forthcoming 2010 presidential elections has hiked compared to the previous figures for the parliamentary polls.” Rwanda goes to the polls on August 9, with President Paul Kagame widely expected to win with a landslide.

The campaigning period has been smooth with no significant occurrences registered in the last week.  Munyaneza  also said that “Apart from posting campaign posters in undesignated areas such as electric poles and trees, generally there are no big issues because these are just minor. Candidates’ posters, are only supposed to be posted on public buildings.” The chief executive at the country’s NEC, Prof Chrisologue Karangwa, said that there is no deficit in the elections budget. He said that 83 percent of the budget for the elections has been made available.

NEC  Officials also told reporters this week that over 1,000 local and foreign observers will monitor the electoral process for the presidential elections scheduled for August 9. Close to 300 international observers have already confirmed but a larger number is expected as the polling day draws closer. Munyaneza reiterated that the commission communicated with a number of organisations to take part in the elections and among them the Comesa secretariat and foreign missions in the country have already shown interest.
This week a team of Commonwealth Observers Group (COG) is expected to arrive in the country. The group according to officials includes 13 prominent personalities headed by former Tanzania Prime Minister, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, who was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, following an invitation from NEC.

According to a  Commonwealth press statement, the group which will be in the country for at least two weeks, would also include Sabihuddin Ahmed a former Bangladesh Permanent Secretary, Art Wright, former Canadian Diplomat and ex Ghanaian Diplomat, Brig. Gen. (Rtd) Francis Agyemfra, among others.  The statement went on to say that ”Their mandate is to observe the preparations for the elections, the polling and the overall electoral environment. They will also assess the conduct of the process and make recommendations for the future strengthening of the electoral framework in Rwanda. The group is tasked to act impartially and independently, and to conduct itself according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory. Rwanda is the newest member of the Commonwealth and we are very pleased to observe these important elections. Democracy is a key pillar of the Commonwealth, and the credible conduct of a country’s election is an integral and vital element of the democratic process.”

The Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame has been facing allegations of human rights abuses by rights groups who accuse the President of stifling democracy and restricting opposition politicians from campaigning. Press freedom is also an issue in Rwanda as journalists accuse the government of intimidation and oppression.

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