Sustaining democracy gains in Rwanda | Auke Lootsma
16 Sep 2013
Rwanda is widely known for its beautiful landscape, and often remembered for its tragic genocide. But in recent years, I have seen the country make a name for itself as a fast-growing developing country with low corruption, clean and safe streets, and a parliament with the highest proportion of women representatives in the world (52 percent).
The upcoming parliamentary elections, from 16 to 18 September, will be held against a backdrop of impressive improvement in the areas of democratic governance and political space.
The Government recently passed a series of bills related to media, civil society and political parties to allow these stakeholders to play a stronger role in the democratic process.
Candidates on party lists, women’s lists, youth and disabled lists will be vying for the 80 seats in parliament. Almost 6 million registered voters are expected to cast their ballots, an increase of 1.3 million voters compared to the parliamentary elections in 2008.
To boost its capacity and save costs, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will use close to 75,000 volunteers to man the polling stations and ensure the voting and counting is conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner. This has allowed the NEC to bring down the cost of the election to less than US $2 per voter, the lowest on the continent.
A perception survey conducted by the Rwanda Governance Board in 2012 showed that overall quality of democracy is now at 81 percent, with a competitive multiparty democracy political system scoring 77 percent; universal adult suffrage for all citizens was scored at 90 percent; regularly and fairly contested elections in the conditions of secrecy and security of ballot at 88 percent; access to political parties to open political campaigns at 88 percent; and 80 percent of citizen have expressed confidence in the independence of the electoral commission.
As part of the One UN programme in Rwanda, UNDP is strongly supporting the NEC, parliament, media, civil society and other stakeholders to sustain the gains in the area of the democratic and accountable governance. The legacy of the 1994 genocide still weighs heavy on the country, but these parliamentary elections should prove another step towards a peaceful and stable Rwanda.