ANALYSIS: Rwanda’s 2013 parliamentary polls: A post-mortem

A supporter of the ruling RPF holds a poster of incumbent President Kagame at a rally ahead of next week's presidential election in ByumbaBy Theogene Rudasingwa

[In parliamentary elections held on Monday, a coalition dominated by the Rwanda Patriotic Front won with 76 per cent. -THE EDITORS]

In practice, the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has progressively reduced the space for other political forces to operate in the country. For now, political space in Rwanda is completely closed to political parties that are not co-opted into the RPF monopolistic machinery. Since 1995, the trend has been towards progressive consolidation of the RPF’s monopolistic control of the machinery of the state. The RPF has, since then, striven for unrivalled political supremacy in Rwanda.

The organization exercises absolute control over all organs of the state. It has achieved this political supremacy not through an open and free process of competition with other political forces, but through repressive laws, administrative practices and the use of the security services to frustrate the exercise of the civil and political rights of opponents.

The RPF has paid only lip service to constitutional provisions relating to the right of political participation, inclusion and power-sharing. Not only is the opposition excluded from participating in government; it is effectively barred from undertaking any activities inside the country at all. Genuine political opposition exists only outside Rwanda. The RPF enjoys unchallenged power in Rwanda. Rwanda is far less free now than it was prior to the 1994.

The process of electing the Rwanda legislature and the legal framework that regulates its operation naturally serve to entrench autocratic rule. The Rwandan Parliament does not derive its legitimacy from the electorate. RPF and the parties allied to it lack fair, transparent and democratic mechanisms for choosing candidates to represent them. The process by which parties chose candidates is flawed and corrupt. Individuals are put on lists through unclear and undemocratic ways. The electorate have no mechanism for holding members of the legislature accountable.

The fact that legislators do not have specific constituencies undermines development, as legislators do not have specific communities to which they are required to account. Because of the corrupt ways in which they are appointed, legislators are not independent. Instead of becoming representatives of the people, legislators act as party functionaries for fear of being dismissed.

Members of the legislature are not accountable to the electorate and serve to promote the interests President Kagame, his wife, and discredited party functionaries who influence their placement or retention on the party lists.

Debates in parliament are not based on the social – economic conditions occasioned by peoples’ problems and aspirations. A significant proportion of legislators are always recalled before the end of their terms purely as a result of internal party intrigues which have no relationship with the performance of legislators or the views of the electorate. The turnover at the legislature is so high that it affects the effectiveness of the institution. Consequently, there is constant fear by parliamentarians to expose excesses or failures of government officials. As a result, parliament is unable to exercise over-sight on government performance as required by law. The legislature merely serves the purpose of rubber-stamping decisions made by cabinet, acting as attack dogs of the regime by harassing opposition leaders and ridiculing cabinet members who have fallen out with Paul Kagame.

Given this background, every parliamentary election (2003, 2008) has been preceded by the same worrying pattern of intimidation, harassment and other abuses – ranging from killings and arrests to restrictive administrative measures – against opposition parties, journalists, members of civil society and other critics, with results confirming the RPF’s absolute monopoly of political power. The Parliamentary elections held on Monday in which RPF won by a landslide were no different:

o RPF’s preparations for the elections were executed with the same operational efficiency as in the past elections, since it acts single-handedly without any opposition to its schemes. The estimated cost of the parliamentary elections was 5 billion Rwandan Francs (approximately 8 million USD). Most of these funds ended up in companies that are controlled by President Kagame’s network of officials, friends and family.

The outcome of the “elections” was, as expected, a “landslide” for the RPF. The truth is that RPF decided what the sham “coalition” political parties it has divided, corrupted, bought and intimidated should get. The so-called RPF’s coalition parties referred to include the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), Parti Socialiste Rwandais (PSR), Parti du Progrès et la Concorde (PPC) and Centrist Democratic Party (PDC), Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Liberal Party (PL).

There was no real opposition in the elections just as there was no opposition in the previous two parliamentary elections in (2003, 2008) or presidential elections (2003, 2010). What RPF’s “coalition partners” get is what RPF gives them, on the one hand giving a façade of a democratic election while entrenching RPF’s absolute monopoly of power.

There was no possibility of opposition parties forming a coalition to contest the elections. First, as mentioned above, there is no real opposition in Rwanda. Second, the only “coalition” that RPF allows and which it has constructed is that which is in alignment with its strategy to maintain absolute control of all power in Rwanda. Genuine political opposition parties are not allowed to participate in elections: FDU-Inkingi has not been allowed to register and its President, Victoire Ingabire, is in jail on trumped up charges. PS-Imberakuri’s President, Bernard Ntaganda, was jailed on trumped up charges. Only the faction that RPF engineered can participate in the election as an RPF’s “coalition partner”. PDP-Imanzi’s President, Deo Mushaidi, is serving a life-sentence on politically motivated conviction on trumped up charges. The Green Party has been registered after its Vice President, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka was beheaded by state agents in 2010. Its leader went into exile only to be recently lured back into the country, but unable to participate in the elections. The party Amahoro People’s Congress and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) are neither registered in Rwanda nor can they be allowed to participate in the elections. There are several other political parties operating outside Rwanda. There is armed opposition to the Kigali regime, operating in the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC).

Previously President Kagame and his RPF have campaigned with the slogan, “NO CHANGE”. Indeed this last electoral exercise looks more like a wasteful circus than an authentic free and fair election. In short, no change in the status quo.

Rwandans, let us mobilize and organize against dictatorship.

Freedom, democracy and shared prosperity is our right

We shall win!

* Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is the co-ordinator of Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and a co-cordinator of Rwanda’s largest political opposition platform with FDU-Inkingi. He has previously served as the Secretary General of Rwanda’s ruling party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front ( RPF), Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, and President Paul Kagame’s Director of Cabinet (Chief of Staff)

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