Consultations are underway to synchronise Presidential and Legislative polls in a bid to minimise the cost and time spent on organising elections and also align with the electoral format in the East African Community (EAC).
This was revealed by the newly sworn-in president of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), who officially assumed office on Wednesday after taking the oath at the Supreme Court, before the Chief Justice, Faustin Ntezilyayo. Also sworn-in on Wednesday is Carine Umwari, who joins the electoral body as a Commissioner.
Speaking after swearing-in, Gasinzigwa said that consultations are already ongoing among stakeholders to amend the law in a bid to ensure that elections are held at the same time, as it is in many countries, rather than holding them in two consecutive years.
“This will be a different approach but not new, especially in the region. As I said, before this assignment I was in the East African Community and we have been experiencing different elections in our region and we came to realize that the issue of resources, the issue of budget is a very big challenge to most of our partner states, including Rwanda,” said Gasinzigwa, who prior to joining NEC was a member of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
Gasinzigwa pointed out that from the different elections they have observed in the region, it is more economical to hold the elections jointly, where Members of Parliament and the President of the Republic are elected on the same day and it is a more economical and time-efficient approach.
“As the new chairperson of the National Electoral Commission, after being confirmed by the Senate, I thought it would be good to consult with the stakeholders, especially my colleagues in the NEC and see how best we can manage the upcoming elections,” Gasinzigwa told journalists.
Gasinzigwa said that organising an election involves many activities, which require a heavy budget, including training polling assistants and presiding officers, stakeholders and sensitizing the masses and it becomes less costly to do it once and for all, instead of holding the two polls separately in two consecutive years.
She pointed out that the reforms in the electoral processes would be timely as they come at a time when the presidential and legislative term limits under the constitution, as revised in 2015, come into force.
Gasinzigwa said that the changes in the electoral process and synchronisation would not require a referendum as the electoral law already exists and would be amended accordingly, in agreement with all stakeholders. She pointed out that consultations have already started and the majority are in agreement that the change was long overdue.
If approved, Rwanda will join other East African countries in holding both legislative and presidential polls concurrently. Gasinzigwa said that discussions will commence at all levels before a decision is taken.
Currently, the Presidential term is 7 years but from next year it will be reduced to five years, renewable once. MPs can also seek a second five year term under the revised constitution.
Gasinzigwa said that among other things, NEC will work on upgrading the technology used in the elections to ensure a fast and efficient voting process. Rwanda on average spends about Rwf7bn on elections and the amount is expectedly to significantly reduce with the merger of legislative and presidential polls.