From Daniel Howden at The Independent:
Rwanda's democratic credentials have been questioned amid evidence that authorities are blocking efforts by the country's Green Party to contest this year's elections. The new Greens have been repeatedly thwarted in their attempts to register the party, their meetings have been violently broken up or blocked by police and their leader has had anonymous death threats.A democracy that doesn't allow multiple parties to campaign without fear of harassment or intimidation isn't a democracy at all. I teach my comparative politics students that functioning, consolidated democracies have several characteristics in common: respect for civil rights and civil liberties; regular, free& fair elections; an active and independent civil society; and a free press are among them. A leader can't just hold elections and actually be running a democracy (Saddam and Mobutu both held semi-regular elections. Wisconsin political scientist Michael Schatzberg told a fantastic story about being forced to vote for the latter during his fieldwork in Zaire at the ASA a few years back. Apparently everyone, including an American grad student, was expected to vote for Mobutu and his party, so soldiers made sure that everyone did.).
...There are also widespread reports of intimidation and harassment of opposition parties as the country, which has been ruled by the same party for 15 years, gears up for the presidential vote expected in August. Human Rights Watch says all three opposition groups trying to contest the election have faced serious intimidation and bureaucratic blocks.
I think most political scientists would classify Rwanda as a semi-authoritarian regime, that is, one that has some democratic institutions and characteristics, but not others. Rwanda has a parliament, but lacks a free press, significant political opposition, and free speech, and has a few other issues.
My understanding is that there's some question as to whether Rwanda's Green Party is actually capable of registering and running a serious campaign for the elections this August. Nonetheless, the party's inability to register - and the fact that there's international awareness of the issue - is yet another dilemma the RPF will have to address in the lead-up to the elections. If the RPF wants Rwanda to be considered a democracy in the global community, its leadership will have to find a way to accommodate peaceful opposition. Recognizing that "opposition" does not equate to "genocidal" would be a good first step.