Rwanda 2018 Election - Chambre des Députés
The parliamentary elections were held 2-4 September 2018. There were numerous reports local officials and the SSF briefly detained some individuals who disagreed publicly with government decisions or policies. Opposition leaders and government critics faced indictment under broadly applied charges of genocide incitement, genocide denial, divisionism, and incitement to rebel. Numerous individuals identified by international and domestic human rights groups as political prisoners remained in prison, including Victoire Ingabire, Deo Mushayidi, and Theoneste Niyitegeka.
The constitution outlines a multiparty system but provides few rights for parties and their candidates. There were some reports the RPF pressured youth into joining the party during mandatory “ingando” civic and military training camps after completing secondary school and “itorero” cultural school, which promoted patriotism in addition to inculcating national customs. There were also reports RPF members pressured teachers, clergy, and businesspersons to join the party and coerced political donations from both party members and nonmembers. Political parties allied to the RPF were largely able to operate freely, but members faced legal sanctions if found guilty of engaging in divisive acts, destabilizing national unity, threatening territorial integrity, or undermining national security.
Rwandans in the diaspora can and do vote in presidential elections. Citizens in any location in the world can organise themselves to vote, including supervising the elections and tallying the votes, and then relay the results back to the national electoral commission in Kigali.
Rwanda has 11 legally registered and recognized political parties and all got representation in the 80-member Parliament. For the first time since the country held post-Genocide democratic general elections in 2003, new parties secured seats in the House. Two opposition parties also managed to win seats for the very first time. The RPF and its coalition of political parties won 40 seats after getting 74 percent of the votes. PSD got 9 percent, winning 5 seats, followed by PL with 7 percent of the vote and earning 4 seats. Newcomers Democratic Green Party and PS-Imberakuri both got the minimum threshold of 5 percent of the vote each and for the first time will have 2 representatives in Parliament. The remaining seats were reserved for special groups: Women 24, youth 2 seats, and people with disabilities have 1 seat.
President Paul Kagame shocked many in his country and around the world on 21 September 2018 when he granted more than 2,100 prisoners an unexpected pardon. There was no official explanation given for President Paul Kagame’s decision to pardon high-profile figures, though he told parliamentarians last week that suggestions he had given way to “foreign pressure” were wrong. A host of other opposition politicians, notably Diane Rwigara, remained behind bars.
Despite some discontent over unemployment and other domestic issues, and a controversial reputation overseas, Kagame appears to be genuinely popular in Rwanda, which has had some of the fastest economic growth rates in Africa and has become known for its stability in a deeply troubled region. The primary aim is to ensure that past mistakes that made instability inevitable are not repeated. A key mistake, the argument often goes, was unrestrained competition amid systematic use of sectarianism by those in pursuit of power to further their ambitions. However opposition activists, many in exile, say he runs a police state, jailing journalists and assassinating dissidents, even overseas.
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