On August 4th, Rwandans will head to the polls to elect a new president. Incumbent President Paul Kagame will be seeking re-election for a third time. In the absence of a strong political opposition, he is widely expected to be re-elected.
In 2010, Kagame won re-election for a second-term with a record 93 percent of the vote cast. It is hard to tell if that figure is an overwhelming popular endorsement of Kagame’s administration or a consequence of a repressive political climate that has squeezed life out of the opposition.
Kagame has been credited with instituting wide ranging reforms that have turned Rwanda around from the war ravaged, aid-dependent country that it was at the end of the 1994 genocide. The country is now home to a fast-growing middle income economy that has become the hub for information technology in East and Central Africa. But he has also been condemned for his high-handed leadership style and intolerance for dissenting opinions.
In 2015 he got the country to approve constitutional changes that made him eligible to seek re-election for a third term in office, while also allowing him to remain in office until 2034.
He told Rwandans in a 2016 new year broadcast following the referendum that, “You requested me to lead the country again after 2017. Given the importance and consideration you attach to this, I can only accept. But I don’t think that what we need is an eternal leader.”
Rwanda elects its president in a single round of voting, by a simple majority where the candidate with the most number of votes is declared winner.