Thursday, May 27, 2010

Promoting participation in the coming election

Rwandans will vote for president on August 9. As a PCV I can’t share my opinions on politics, but I can write about the procedures and the government’s efforts to promote participation. This election awareness logo is popping up on t-shirts everywhere. It incorporates the date of the vote, colors of the Rwandan flag, and a thumb that I assume represents the ink that will mark those who have participated.

Primaries began last month for the ruling party, the RPF. Following Umuganda on the last Saturday in April, the governor and mayor of Nyanza spoke to the assembled crowd about the organization of the coming elections, informing them of the schedule and encouraging them to participate. From what I can gather, each umudugudu voted on two candidates, before advancing to subsequent votes at the cell, sector and district levels before provinces voted on the two candidates (I posted about Rwanda's administrative organization here).

Current president Kagame won the national RPF primary. According to the New Times (Rwanda’s main paper), the national election commission said "As far as we are concerned as the electoral commission, we are not informed of any opposition." However, the campaign officially spans from July 20 to August 8.

In addition to speeches at public gatherings such as umuganda and numerous radio messages, Rwanda is conducting rather unique get out the vote efforts. Barbers and moto drivers, Rwandans who come in to contact with high volumes of captive customers in their lines of work, have been trained to conduct get-out-the-vote outreach with their customers. Pretty creative!

If you are interested in learning more about the upcoming election, much has been written and many perspectives exist. I recommend googling for more information; Peace Corps prevents me from saying more.

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