The history of multi-party elections in Rwanda is relatively short: the first elections conducted in the 1950s for chiefs and sub-chiefs and the referendum to turn Rwanda from monarch to republic were conceived, organized and supervised by the colonial power, with pre-determined results.
Between 1959 and 1994, political leadership took the form of a de-facto single party, which was ethnically-defined, and as a result a portion of the population was systematically excluded from the management and exercise of power.
After the genocide, the government of national unity put in place transitional arrangements for electing leaders with some degree of accountability to their electorates, until the adoption of the constitution in 2003 which established multi-party political system in Rwanda where citizens can elect, renew or withdraw the mandate of the people they voted into power.
The 2008 legislative elections are the second such elections since the enactment of the Constitution.
It is in this context that the Rwandan Civil Society Platform established an election observation mission to conduct impartial, systematic and professional monitoring of key elements of the 2008 parliamentary election so as to enhance the prospects of transparent and credible elections.
The Civil Society Election Observation Mission has sought to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this electoral process in order to contribute to possible improvements in future electoral processes.
The CSEOM has used a comprehensive methodology to benchmark law, procedure and practice against international electoral standards.
These standards, derived from international legal instruments, can be summarised as the requirements for periodic and genuine elections; citizens’ right to stand for elections; universal suffrage; the right to vote; equal suffrage; respect for the secrecy of vote, and respect for the expression of the will of the voters. These standards are relevant to all stages of an electoral process.
The CSEOM has conducted the observation mission:
As the government of Rwanda’s ability to organize and finance elections improves, donor funding meant for elections should be channeled to voter education and media, especially private media.