Rwanda’s Democratic Green Party said on Monday it will sit out September’s parliamentary election after the electoral commission took three years to register it, finally doing so just days before the deadline.
Analysts say President Paul Kagame has a well-documented record of blocking, threatening or infiltrating rival parties to stifle even nascent political opposition, and that the belated registration of the Democratic Green Party can hardly be seen as a real opening of the democratic space.
Most other parties are allied to Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front, which holds four in five parliamentary seats.
Democratic Green Party president Frank Habineza said the lateness of the registration meant it was “not possible to have all the necessary requirements” to field candidates in the election.
Launched in 2009, the new party submitted its registration request in 2010, hoping to contest that year’s presidential election, which Kagame won overwhelmingly.
Habineza said the party would now focus on the 2016 local elections and the next presidential election in 2017.
Kagame earned international praise for rebuilding the country after the 1994 genocide, but critics accuse the former rebel commander of being authoritarian and trampling on political freedoms, charges he rejects.
Leading opposition figure Victoire Ingabire, head of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, was unable to stand against Kagame in 2010 after being accused of genocide-related charges and forming an armed group. She was convicted in 2012 and is appealing.