Rwanda Election Schedule Announced: Key Details and Expectations

The Rwanda Electoral Commission has disclosed the timeline for the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. Candidates interested in running for the presidency or parliamentary seats are required to submit their applications between May 17 and May 30, 2023. Notably, the list of presidential hopefuls includes the incumbent President Paul Kagame of the FPR-Inkotanyi party, alongside opposition figures Victoire Ingabire of the DALFA-Umurinzi party and Bernard Ntaganda of the PS-Imberakuri party, both of which are currently not legally recognized in Rwanda.

Starting from March 18, 2023, independent candidates will be allowed to initiate the process of collecting signatures in support of their candidacies, a phase that will continue until the May 30 deadline. The Electoral Commission is set to announce the final list of approved candidates on June 14. The campaign period for both political party and independent candidates is scheduled from June 22 to July 13, leading up to the election days on July 14 for Rwandans living abroad and July 15 for those within the country. This year marks the first instance where Rwandans will vote simultaneously for both the President and the members of the legislature.

The political landscape in Rwanda appears to be heavily skewed in favor of the ruling party, with no significant opposition candidates posing a substantial challenge to President Kagame’s expected nomination by his party. Critics of the government attribute this imbalance to restrictions on political space, freedom to conduct political activities, and the critique of the government, emphasizing a culture of predominantly positive portrayal of President Kagame.

Opposition figures like Victoire Ingabire, who sought legal removal of her conviction after her imprisonment from 2010 to 2018 to enable her presidential candidacy, highlight these concerns. Ingabire’s return from the Netherlands in 2010 was motivated by her political ambitions, illustrating the hurdles faced by opposition figures in Rwanda.

Social media reactions to the election schedule announcement have largely been anticipatory of President Kagame’s potential fourth term, with many praising his contributions to the country’s economic and social well-being. Kagame has historically won previous elections with over 90% of the vote, suggesting a likely continuation of this trend.

Victoire Ingabire recently commented on the electoral process, noting a general reluctance to engage due to perceived ineffectiveness in bringing about change. However, she urged participation as a step toward “true democracy.”

The Electoral Commission has announced that the final election results will be released on July 27, 2023, concluding this important electoral process in Rwanda.