Rwanda will most likely retain the lead among countries with the highest number of women in parliament after the September polls going by the final lists issued by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) last week.
There will be more women on the ballot when Rwandans go to the polls between September 1 and 4, with the outcome likely to exceed the 63.8 per cent women that were in the outgoing parliament.
Out of 521 candidates approved by NEC, 326 are women, accounting for 61 per cent, compared to 221 women out 410 who contested in the 2013 Parliamentary elections, accounting for 50 percent.
“We are seeing more women vying for office, which is a good indication that more women are getting more interested and involved in leadership. This is a positive development,” said Prof. Kalisa Mbanda, the NEC Chairman.
179 women will vie for 24 seats reserved for women while the other 147 will compete under their respective parties and for the youth seats.
For the first time after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, an opposition party will have candidates on the ballot after 32 out of 34 candidates submitted by the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR) were given a green light to vie for seats in the forthcoming parliament.
Among them in the party head Frank Habineza who says he hopes his party will scoop at least 10 seats in a poll expected to be dominated by the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and other parties in the ruling coalition.
“We have a lot of chances of winning at least 10 seats because of the networks we have in the whole country and the political capital we gained after standing for presidential elections,” Mr Habineza told Rwanda Today.
Despite garnering a paltry 0.5 per cent against President Paul Kagame’s 98.8 per cent in the August 2017 Presidential Elections, Habineza hopes his party can rise above the 5 per cent threshold nationwide wide at least to be guaranteed a seat in the house.
Philippe Mpayimana, who was the second in the Presidential elections with 0.7 percent, is also among the 4 independent candidates cleared by NEC to contest in the Parliamentary elections.
26 youth will battle it out for 2 seats for youth while 10 people will contest for 1 seat for Persons with Disabilities.
The Lower Chamber of the Rwanda Parliament has 80 seats, 53 reserved for political parties and independents, 24 for women elected by women councils.
On average, the 4th Parliament will have a composition of the youngest MPs compared to the previous one with the average age being between 38 and 42.
Surprisingly, the ruling party RPF and parties within its coalition have the oldest candidates averaging between 48 and 50, despite President Kagame’s declarations to have more young people in leadership positions.
Logan Ndahiro, 67, and Fidele Rwigamba, 68, are the oldest on the RPF list among those likely to make it to the house according to the placement on the ruling party list, while Justine Mukobwa, at 30, is the youngest on the same list.
The first 10 on the Social Democratic Party (PSD) list who are likely to win seats are aged between 48, the oldest, while the youngest is 28. The oldest on the Liberal Party (PL) list is 62 and the youngest 38 –among those likely to get seats.
The Greens and PS Imberakuri average age is 38 while the four independent candidates are aged between29 and 40. Women candidates have the biggest number of youthful candidates, the majority aged below 40. All youth candidates are below 30.
The oldest among PwD MP Candidates is 60 while the youngest is 31. NEC says that in comparison, the candidates this election are much younger compared to the outgoing parliament.
“When you compare the outgoing parliament and the candidates we have this year, the average age went down tremendously, meaning that we will have a much younger parliament,” NEC chairman Prof. Kalisa Mbanda said.
“For example, the independent candidates are all youthful and among those contesting for women seats, majority are youthful. We have not done a detailed analysis but it is already clear,” Mbanda added.
Over 7 million Rwandans are expected to vote in the September polls which will cost about $6.8m. However, the Parliamentary Poll in Rwanda is largely predictable, going by the name placement on party lists and has in the past not enthused international observers.
Campaigns commence on August 13.