Unique aspects of Rwanda’s upcoming general election

By Esther Muhozi
On 27 February 2024 at 02:26

The National Electoral Commission recently announced that the Presidential and Parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously for the first time, introducing several new features, including two differently colored ballot papers, an increase in polling stations, and the extension of polling stations to all hospitals to ensure that patients and their caregivers can vote for their leaders.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has announced that preparations for the Presidential elections scheduled for July 15, 2024, for residents in Rwanda are well underway.

This election will mark the first time it is held simultaneously, with a significantly increased turnout compared to previous years.

During the Dusangire Ijambo talk show broadcasted on February 25, 2024, Charles Munyaneza, the Executive Secretary of the National Electoral Commission, revealed that more than one million young individuals are set to cast their votes for the first time.

He stated, “The number has significantly increased, from just over 7.1 million voters in 2018, we now expect around 8.7 million voters. This is a large number that needs to be added to the voter list, but it also requires educating and training them as it will be their first time voting.”

The number of polling stations has increased

Munyaneza revealed plans for the upcoming elections, announcing an increase in the number of polling stations to 2,500 and polling rooms to 17,400, a significant rise from the previous count of approximately 16,000 rooms.

This expansion in polling rooms aims to reduce the number of voters per room, now capped at 500 individuals, down from the previous 700.

An important innovation is the introduction of polling stations in all hospitals, facilitating easy access to voting for patients and enabling caregivers to participate in the electoral process.

Furthermore, Munyaneza highlighted measures to support individuals with disabilities, including the visually impaired, who will have access to special voting papers. Additionally, those unable to vote independently due to disabilities can designate a proxy, even if they are not of voting age, to cast their ballot on their behalf, as permitted by law.

In the polling stations, what will the setting be like?

For Rwandans, elections are like a wedding. Each polling station is prepared according to the capacity of those working there, but there are essential elements that every room will have in common with another.

Munyaneza said that in January 2024, a trial of these elections was conducted in the Rutunga Sector of the Gasabo District, calling citizens to see if these elections could be conducted from seven in the morning to three in the afternoon, as was customary.

After this exercise, it was found that there should be an addition of one volunteer who will help citizens understand the equipment in the polling room and where to go.

He said, "We used to have four volunteers in the polling room, but we found we should have five, adding a person to guide the citizens in that room, showing them the ballot boxes; this is the ballot box for the President of the Republic, this is for the Deputies, to make these elections easy and to conclude on time."

In each room, there will be three booths, with one specially designated for the election of the President of the Republic and another for the election of the Deputies.

Additionally, there will be two ballot boxes. The first one will be white with a white lid, intended for use in the presidential election. The second ballot box will have a white body and a black lid, designated for the deputy elections.

What will the ballots look like?

In places where combined elections are conducted, measures are taken to prevent confusion among citizens by using ballots of different colors.

Munyaneza explained that the ballot for the President of the Republic will be white on both sides, while the one for the Deputies will be beige.

He stated, "Our plan is to ensure that citizens are not handed both ballots simultaneously. They will first receive the white ballot for the President of the Republic. The individual distributing it will guide them, indicating, ‘please proceed to the designated booth for the President of the Republic.’

After casting their vote, they will then be directed to another volunteer who will provide them with the beige ballot for the Deputies. This volunteer will also direct them to the booth designated for voting for the Deputies, where they can deposit their ballot in the box with a black lid at the bottom."

This expansion in polling rooms aims to reduce the number of voters per room, now capped at 500 individuals, down from the previous 700.