Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rwanda: National Electoral Commission (NEC) and Parties draft new Electoral Code

By Edmond Kagire

The Kigali New Times
April 21, 2009

The Chairman of National Electoral Commission Chrysologue Karangwa (R) , and the Spokesperson of the Forum for Political Parties, Protais Mitali, at the presentation of the Draft Electoral Code yesterday. (Photo G Barya).

New legislation to enhance electoral procedures

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) yesterday organised a consultative workshop for stakeholders and players in the country’s political sphere to bring forth their views on the draft Electoral Code ahead of next years Presidential Elections.

The new code which is currently undergoing a ‘cleaning’ process before it is adopted by the two chambers of parliament will be used during next year’s presidential elections.

The meeting attended by representatives of all political parties and civil society groups in the country served as a platform to deliberate on the ‘all-inclusive’ 223 Article draft law which includes the rules, requirements and regulations to be followed during elections.

According to Chrysologue Karangwa, the Chairman of the NEC, the draft law was prepared by the electoral body and Prof. George Lutz from Switzerland after a comprehensive research on different electoral laws from different countries.

He added that law copied from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia and United States of America, is more easier for the average Rwandan to understand compared to the one in force.

“This law is all-inclusive; it binds all the laws governing elections in the country and it’s much easier to understand. We hope that after including all the views of stakeholders in the law, we will take it to all Rwandans to acquaint them with it before next year’s elections,” Karangwa told the press.

The law contains cross-cutting principles in terms of elections considering what happens in other countries.

“This one is special because we borrowed ideas from different codes to come up with a law that suites Rwandan specifications” Karangwa added.

The Secretary General of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Francois Ngarambe was among those who disagreed with Prof. Lutz who had earlier opined that the law is more complicated and does not meet ‘international standards’ though there is room for improvement.

Ngarambe argued that developed countries should not compare their electoral codes with those of developing democracies because they are at different levels of development characterised by specifications and historical backgrounds they have to consider before they come up with the law.

Lutz however argued that Rwanda’s elections are well managed looking at the last two elections compared to other developing countries, citing the women majority in parliament and available institutional and legal frameworks in the country as examples.

“We want to computerise the next elections as a means of modernising the voting process and ensure transparent, free and fair elections, free from rigging and other electoral malpractices,” Karangwa revealed.

He noted that the elections body has entered a deal with the National ID office to have all names on the voters list accompanied with pictures “we very well know that some people in this country share even both names but surely they will not resemble 100 percent.”

The draft states that all individuals intending to contest for presidency will have to be residents in the country at the time and possess a national ID and also hold a birth certificate issued within at least the previous three months by a competent government authority.

They will also be required to posses a ‘clean’ legal background and strictly have one nationality (Rwandan) or relinquish their other nationalities.

The spokesperson of the National Political Parties Forum in Rwanda, Protais Mitali, urged parties to actively participate in the drafting of the legislation since they are the major beneficiaries. He also noted that the new law is more comprehensive and covers the political interests of all parties in Rwanda.

The Minister in the President’s office, Solina Nyirahabimana, urged stakeholders to prioritise ICT in the electoral process since the country is undergoing a technological revolution where everything will be computerised in future, without necessarily tampering with the law.

Related Materials:
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The Two Faces of Rwanda

Rwandan Opponent Denies the Existence of Democracy in Rwanda

Rwanda: Dealing with the reality, achieving common ground, and betting on the future


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