Home Rwanda Decides 2024 Rwanda Decides: Electoral Body Says More Than Two Million First Time Voters Registered

Rwanda Decides: Electoral Body Says More Than Two Million First Time Voters Registered

by Edmund Kagire
3:16 pm

NEC Chairperson, Oda Gasinzigwa (centre), flanked by Commissioner Judith Mbabazi and Executive Secretary, Charles Munyaneza.

Preparations for the 2024 Presidential and Parliamentary elections are in high gear, with the national electoral body saying that it has already received credentials from eight people seeking to contest for Presidency.

The Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Oda Gasinzigwa, says preps for the polls scheduled for July 14, for Rwandans in Diaspora and July 15, inside the country, are on track, including updating voter’s register. It is the first time Rwanda will be combining Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.

Gasinzigwa said that processes leading to the July 15 general elections are right on track, among other things, revealing that the electoral body has registered an upsurge in the number of young Rwandans looking to vote for the first time in the ongoing voter’s registry update.

“It is a process that started sometime back, beginning with amending the Constitution and other laws in line with the wishes of Rwandans, to combine the two elections, not only to save us resources, but also the time Rwandans spend electing their leaders,” Gasinzigwa said.

“So far, I can say we are very much on track in terms of the targets we’ve given ourselves. All the systems have been put in place and we are ready to ensure that Rwandans have peaceful and successful elections,” she added.

She pointed out that there will be some changes in the polling room, where there will be two ballot boxes, as opposed to one, one for the presidential ballot and the other for members of parliament.

Gasinzigwa said the boxes will be coloured differently to allow people to distinguish between them and so will be the ballot papers.

NEC Chairperson Gasinzigwa called on Rwandans to be part of the electoral process in their numbers.

Apart from the President, Rwandans will elect 80 members who make up the Chamber of Deputies, the second arm of Parliament which operates alongside the senate, to debate and vote laws.

Some 53 Deputies will be elected from a fixed list of names of candidates proposed by political organisations or independent candidates, who will be elected by direct universal suffrage based on proportional representation.

So far, according to Gasinzigwa, the electoral commission has received 41 files from individuals who want to contest as independent candidates for Parliament.

24 women representatives will be elected by specific electoral colleges following the national administrative entities, while two MPs are voted by the National Youth Council, while one MP is elected by the National Council of Persons with Disabilities.

Surge in first time voters

More than two million young Rwandans have registered to vote for the first time in the elections which will be combined for the first time, following earlier processes to synchronise the presidential and legislative elections, as opposed to holding them two years apart, as it was in the past.

Gasinzigwa said that for the first time they’ve seen young people aged 18 and above voluntarily going to update their status to become first time voters, thanks to the synchronisation they’ve done with the National Identification Agency (NIDA) to align systems for easy update of the voter’s register.

“We have worked with partner institutions to put in place the technology to link our databases and systems that communicate especially in regard to updating voter’s registers, which has made it easy for people to check and upgrade their status,” Gasinzigwa said.

“We had at least nine percent of registered voters looking to change their location in terms of where they want to vote from and this is going on smoothly. We want to make sure that Rwandans don’t encounter challenges on the day of voting Gasinzigwa said.

NEC Executive Secretary said the number of newly registered voters has increased tremendously.

Gasinzigwa said that the interesting trend of young people enthusiastically going to register themselves to vote is something that goes with the understanding by young people to be part of nation-building.

“Currently, there are about 9,500,000, who are 18 years and older, are on the voters register. Of that number, over two million will be first time voters. This is a very interesting trend we are seeing for the first time,” she said.

Even more interesting, Gasinzigwa said that more than 17,000 young people have registered themselves to volunteer at polling stations, with each polling station requiring at least five polling assistants.

She revealed that the necessary training is being given to them to ensure that when the polling days come, they are ready to assist voters, in order to quicken the process, followed by the vote counting, which she said will be done in a smooth and efficient manner.

“We are grateful to the 17,400 young people, most of whom are voting for the first time, who have committed to play a role in the electoral processes. They are moving around sensitising people to update their status. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm young Rwandans are showing ahead of the polls,” she said.

She further added that the initial exercises which included candidates gathering signatures and submitting their lists have all been smooth so far, adding that Rwandans should be excited for the coming days, which will reveal more about the forthcoming elections.

Gasinzigwa said that in the coming days they are expecting to receive more files from candidates who still have time to put together their requirements.

The electoral body cautioned prospective candidates to desist from engaging in early campaigns on social media and through mainstream media before they could confirm if they fulfilled all requirements to make it to the list.

Technology assisted

The electoral body attributed the surge in vote registrations and update to the deployment of technology, which easily allows people to update their status without physically going to the electoral commission.

A USSD code *169#, has enabled people to update their voter status. NEC says voting will happen at 2,441 polling stations across the country.

Judith Mbabazi, one of the Commissioners highlighted some of the requirements candidates are expected to meet.

Gasinzigwa dismissed allegations that the vote will not be fair and transparent, pointing out that the outcome of the elections will be the will of the people, who are already showing that they cannot wait to go to the polls.

She reiterated the independence of the electoral commission, pointing out that the body lives to its legal mandate, emphasizing that the excitement around the forthcoming elections shows that Rwandans have grown to know the importance of voting their own leaders.

The electoral body says it has received several applications from civil society, regional, continental and global organisations looking to play an observatory role but the final list of observers is yet to be drawn.

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