Rwanda’s main opposition party wins parliamentary seats for the first time
Kigali, September 5, 2018 (AltAfrica)-Rwanda’s main opposition will now have parliamentary seats for the first time, in what the Green Party leader says is a milestone and sign of opening up of the country’s political space.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, the only registered opposition party, won two MP seats after garnering five per cent of the votes cast in the just concluded parliamentary elections.
The polls were swept by the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) party which with 74 per cent of the vote got 40 seats of the available 53 MP slots for election.
RPF allied parties also secured seats in the lower chamber of Parliament. Social Democratic Party (PSD) got nine per cent, giving them five seats, and Liberal Party (PL) had seven per cent, equivalent to 4 seats.
The Social Party Imberakuri (PS Imberakuri) garnered 5 per cent, which represents two seats.
In Rwanda parliamentary elections, votes are cast for a party, instead of individual MPs. The party, depending on the percentage vote it receives, with five per cent being the minimum allowed for representation, then picks candidates who become MPs.
Despite the landslide win, RPF registered a slight decline in the vote compared to the 2013 parliamentary polls when it received 76.2 per cent.
For their win, the Greens Party leader Mr Frank Habineza said “they were pleased by the milestone”.
“It is the first time we are having opposition MPs in Parliament in 24 years. It is a major milestone which signals opening up of political space in Rwanda,” Mr Habineza told The EastAfrican.
He added that he will now consider running for the Speaker’s seat.
Mr Habineza said that his party will provide the necessary checks and balances in Parliament which is still largely dominated by the ruling party and other affiliate parties.
“We are not going to be confrontational or engage in running battles but we want to introduce a culture of discussions and debate of the different ideas on the table,” Mr Habineza said.
The leader of PS Imberakuri, which considers itself an opposition party, Ms Christine Mukabunani said they will be seeking to introduce alternative policies and views with the aim of doing what is right for Rwandans.
“We are an opposition party that does not believe in confrontation,” Ms Mukabunani said.
Both Mr Habineza and Ms Mukabunani say they will push through reforms in laws especially education and agriculture.
“One of our key promises is to reform land laws to ensure that Rwandans fully own their land rather than renting it from government. We will also ensure that some of the land and property taxes that burden the ordinary citizens are scrapped,” said Mr Habineza.
Critics accuse President Paul Kagame’s government of controlling Parliament and using it to rubberstamp laws and policies.
The National Electoral Commission said it will announce the results from the women council elections on Wednesday.
Women are served 24 seats in the 80-member Parliament. Two seats are for youth and one for the disabled who are chosen by special councils and national committees.
Ernest Kamanzi and Clarisse Imaniriho beat 24 others to take the two youth seats, while Eugene Mussolini defeated nine other candidates to represent persons with disabilities.
According to the NEC, the number of women in Parliament will go well above 60 per cent when the final results are released.