President Paul Kagame

As Rwanda gears up for its pivotal elections on July 15, the political landscape is abuzz with activity. The National Electoral Commission has announced the final list of candidates for both the presidential and parliamentary elections, setting the stage for a highly anticipated political showdown.

In the presidential race, incumbent President Paul Kagame, who has led the country for 23 years and helms the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), will be challenged by two contenders. Frank Habineza, leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate, are both vying to unseat Kagame. This election marks Habineza’s second attempt at the presidency, following his 2017 bid where he secured less than 2% of the vote.

Despite the presence of nine candidates who submitted their candidacy, the race has boiled down to these three key figures. Kagame’s dominance in past elections is notable, having secured over 90% of the vote in 2003, 2010, and 2017. His extended tenure and significant electoral victories have drawn both support and criticism. While his supporters commend him for the country’s economic growth and stability, critics and human rights organizations accuse him of maintaining power through a climate of fear, stifling dissent, and free speech.

The electoral process will also see over 500 candidates competing for parliamentary seats, reflecting the vibrant yet tense political environment. The Liberal Party (PL) and the Social Democratic Party (PSD) recently endorsed Kagame, joining a coalition of four smaller parties already aligned with the RPF. This consolidation of support further strengthens Kagame’s position but also raises questions about the breadth of genuine political competition.

As the election date approaches, Rwandans and international observers alike are closely monitoring the developments. The outcomes will not only determine the country’s leadership but also its political direction in the coming years. With tensions high and stakes even higher, the world watches as Rwanda embarks on this critical democratic exercise.

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