Rwanda’s MP’s Back Constitution to Allow President to Extend RuleOctober 30, 2015 in Rwanda
In a move that has been opposed by the United States and other donors, Rwanda’s lower house of parliament on Thursday voted to allow President Paul Kagame to extend his rule beyond a second term, which ends in 2017, and possibly stay on until 2034.
According to lower house speaker Donatilla Mukabalisa, Article 172 of the amended constitution, which would allow the president to extend his rule, was supported by all 75 lawmakers present. The lower house has 80 seats however some lawmakers were absent. Under the amendments, which were approved after debates were held on Wednesday and Thursday, the presidential term will be decreased to five years from seven. Furthermore, while the limit of two terms will remain, an exception is made for the currently president, namely Kagame. According to one lawmaker, who explained the amendment, article 172 effectively allows President Kagame to serve out his seven-year term, which ends in 2017, and also to seek a third seven-year term after that. Furthermore, even beyond that, the president could seek two more five-year terms. President Kagame, who has not explicitly indicated that he wants to run again, stating only that he is open to persuasion, could effectively remain in power until 2034.
While draft amendments to the country’s constitution, which have been approved by the lower house, still need to be backed by the upper house of senators and then put to a referendum, they are not expected to stumble at either stage. Parliament, which is dominated by the president’s backers, debated the issue after a petition calling for changes was signed by 3.7 million supporters of the president. While the country’s main but small opposition, the Democratic Green Party, attempted to block the amendment to extend the president’s term, a court rejected the bid. Critics however have disclosed that the government stifles opposition media and politicians, a charge that officials have denied.