As Rwandans warm up to the upcoming presidential elections slated for August 2017, some political parties have come up to vociferously defend their decision to throw their weight behind President Paul Kagame, saying their decisions are informed by the overwhelming support demonstrated by Rwandans during the petition that saw amendment of the constitution to pave way for the extension of presidential term limits in a December 2015 referendum.
Representatives from four political parties yesterday held a discussion on the recent decisions from Liberal Party (PL) and (PSD) of supporting President Paul Kagame during upcoming presidential elections.
The talk show hosted at RTV attracted Rwanda Patriotic Front commissioner, Sheikh Abdul Karim Harelimana, PL Secretary General Dr Odette Nyiramirimo, PSD Secretary General Dr Ngabitsinze Jean Chrysostome and Dr Frank Habineza president and flag bearer of Green Party.
During the talk show, Dr Nyiramirimo explained that deciding to support Kagame doesn’t mean no one else can lead the country but the party recognized petitions from Rwandans who voted to amend the constitution waiving off term limits.
Dr Ngabitsinze from PSD said the decision was made after countrywide intensive consultations of all members a majority of who accepted to back Kagame.
“Before the referendum in 2015 we held a general assembly in which we agreed to chose a presidential candidate. We didn’t agree on Kagame or someone else.We later held discussions at national level and found Kagame with outstanding competencies,” he said.
Meanwhile Dr Frank Habineza said he perceived the decision of PL and PSD into two perspectives. “First, we were disappointed by the decision because we felt Rwanda should support pluralism.. It should be better if they all share their diverse ideas to support development. On the other hand, it is a good gesture because some members who failed to get their party’s flag bearer will vote for us,” he said.
Sheikh Abdul Karim Harelimana from RPF however objected Dr Frank Habineza’s notions and said; “Firstly, PL and PSD did freely express their views as granted in the constitution. Indeed, it is the right of every Rwandan.”
Sheikh Abdul Karim explained that many citizens need the leadership of president Kagame which was attested through the majority voting ‘yes’ in 2015 referendum. Dr Ngabitsinze from PSD cited statistics from previous presidential polls to show emphasize that Dr. Habineza won’t be supported.
“If president Kagame won elections with 93% in 2010, PSD with 5% and PL with 2%, how do you think some of us will vote for you? I don’t think you can obtain 1% votes. It is good for you to participate as a young politician but we have longstanding 25 years of experience in politics in Rwanda. So we are experienced more than you. You stand no chance,” he said.
“When we decided to support Kagame it didn’t mean we will keep quiet. We will campaign for him,” he added.
PL backed Kagame in 2003 presidential polls but nominated own candidate, Prosper Higiro in 2010 elections.
Nyiramirimo explained that they are likely to nominate own candidate in next elections because Kagame revealed that he doesn’t want to become the unique leader of the country.
Sheikh Harelimana said that “President Paul Kagame can’t be compared with others.I am used to tell people not to compare the Sun and the Earth which is untrue. Kagame demonstrated potential over the past 23 years.”
Dr. Habineza said he is glad that the government of Rwanda allows freedom of expression and hopes ‘elections will be held freely in transparency…allowing us to express our views leaving the choice for citizens.”
Presidential elections are slated on 3rd and 4th August 2017 respectively from the diaspora and inside the country.