Tag Archives: elections

Paul Kagame, the bullet proof politician, goes 4th

In a result that surprised absolutely nobody (except the Rwandan election board, who had been expecting the results somewhat earlier), Paul Kagame yesterday won a second 7-year term as president of Rwanda. The votes have yet to be counted, but initial estimates indicate upwards of 90% of the vote for Kagame and the RPF. A wildly popular figure with a firm grip on power, one would suspect.

Or maybe not. Events of the last few months have belied Kagame’s reputation as a modern, visionary leader, with his own plan for Rwanda’s development. Opposition figures and journalists shot, political parties denied entry into the election, media outlets shut. It sounds all too familiar. We’ve been down this road before – with Meles Zenawi, with Hamid Karzai, with Robert Mugabe.

Kagame, however, is not phased. Remember the genocide, he says; look what a free press did then, look what a free opposition stirred up then. This is his constant refrain. I have seen him speak twice, and read innumerable other interviews, and he always says the same thing, in different words: “Remember the genocide. Whatever I do, I’m not going to let it happen again. Unlike you, in the West, who let it happen the first time.”

It is an impregnable argument, (also, incidentally, employed by Israeli leaders) that lets Kagame avoid any serious questions about his leadership. But it’s time these questions are asked. As an extremely media- and technology-savvy individual, he will know exactly what the implications of the events of the past few months mean. If he didn’t, then Tony Blair’s governance advisory team, who have an office in the presidency, would have told him. This means one of two things. Either, he has lost control of the forces within his party, who are short-sightedly securing power for themselves within a Kagame government by securing Kagame, regardless of the consequences; or he faces genuine, substantive opposition from within the RPF. From a distance, it seems like the latter is most plausible – this article in the Independent provides the most interesting analysis of what might be going on. See also Rwanda – Democracy Watch.

Either way, I can’t help but think that whatever is going on, Kagame is still the right person to lead Rwanda out of the genocide and into modernity. Kigali under his stewardship has become one of the most promising cities in Africa – clean, prosperous and exceptionally safe. The economy is doing fantastic things, so much so that all the international institutions are more than happy to turn a blind eye to the less savoury elements of Kagame’s rule. Perhaps it is misty-eyed optimism, but Rwanda seems to be doing now what Singapore did 30 years ago. Sometimes, democracy is not the answer, and you need to be pushy to get things done. Is now, in Rwanda, one of those times? I can only hope so.

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The Rwandan elections go 4th, but it’s just a typo

It may or may not be fair (and our thoughts on the enigma that is Kagame and modern Rwanda shall wait for another time), but it is certain that Paul Kagame will win the Rwandan elections this August. So certain, in fact, that the head of the electoral commission has decided to skip the formalities and schedule the announcement of the election results two days before the election actually takes place. That’s confidence.

PS. Thanks to the Democracy Watch – Rwanda 2010 blog for the tip.

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The British electoral system goes 4th

All right, perhaps Britain isn’t third world, and therefore does not belong on this blog, but her ridiculous electoral system certainly is. Let’s ignore the immense structural and philosophical problems posed by the first-past-the-post system; that is a historical hangover that should be addressed to some extent in the next parliament. No, let’s focus on the actual execution of running an election. Remember, this is a country that has no qualms about sending advisors and monitors all over the world, but it seems does not bother to apply those same principles to themselves. Three examples:

  1. No identification is required at polling stations. Thus, if you know someone’s name and address, and they are registered, you can vote for them. I know someone who exploited this loophole to vote for himself and his lazy friend. Astonishing. Surely you have to prove who you are in order to vote? And besides, the solution to this problem is basic and practised with excellent results across the world: indelible ink. You vote, you get marked, you can’t vote again. Problem solved. If even Sudan can get this right…
  2. Foreigners are allowed to vote in the local council elections. No problem with that. However, the polling cards sent to foreigners are identical to those sent to locals registered to vote in the general elections. At the station, it seems the onus is on the voter to declare that they are ineligible to vote in the general elections. I know at least two people who took advantage of this glaring flaw to vote when they had no right to do so.
  3. Polling stations across the country faced protests from voters who were still queuing when the doors closed at 10pm. Police had to be called in to deal with some of them. They were not allowed to vote; disenfranchised by pedantry and lack of foresight. This has been the most competitive election in some time – of course voter turnout was going to be high. Other countries, such as South Africa, have responded to similar dilemmas by extending voting hours, on the principle that a citizen’s basic right is more important than anything else. That nobody thought to have a contingency plan to accommodate extra voters is shameful. It is also odd that voting day is not a public holiday, which makes sure that everyone has the time to vote. This is standard practice in most of the world.

These may seem minor issues, but they are all easily rectifiable and, while they probably have little impact on a national level, can exert some influence on a local level. The system needs fixing. I’m sure Sudan would be happy advise.

UPDATE: One of the last constituencies to announce was Fermanagh and South Tyrone in Northern Ireland. The Sinn Fein candidate won by four votes. Four. Further proof, if any was needed, that electoral fraud on even a very minor scale can have an influence.

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