Parliament paves way for referendum on term limit

The anticipated referendum on lifting of presidential term limits moved a step closer as Parliament forwarded the proposed constitutional amendments to government, yesterday.
Members of the public react during the debate on term limits in Parliament. (File)
Members of the public react during the debate on term limits in Parliament. (File)

The anticipated referendum on lifting of presidential term limits moved a step closer as Parliament forwarded the proposed constitutional amendments to government, yesterday.

The Lower House passed a draft law proposing amendments to the Constitution, a step that will be followed by a national referendum for citizens to decide on new provisions in the draft law about presidential term limits.

It is not yet clear when the referendum will take place but everything that has to be done before it is organised will have to be done as fast as possible because that is the wish of citizens, according to MPs.

“Citizens have told us that they want the referendum to happen before the end of the year. It’s up to the government to consider people’s wish,” Deputy Speaker of Parliament in charge of administration, Abbas Mukama, said yesterday.

Parliament initiated changes to the country’s supreme law after more than 3.7 million Rwandans (59 per cent of eligible voters)  had petitioned the House to review the law to allow President Paul Kagame to continue his stewardship of the country beyond 2017 when his second term in office expires.

Following countrywide consultations on the issue by Members of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies made amendments to the Constitution, which were later endorsed by senators.

The draft law passed by Parliament on Monday reduces presidential term limits from seven to five years renewable only once.

But the change will be preceded by one transitional presidential term of seven years for which any presidential candidates, including President Paul Kagame – should he choose to run – will be eligible.

A raft of other changes were also made in the Constitution, ranging from the vetting process of the Senate, and senators’ term in office, to modalities under which a former president vies for a senatorial position.

“Parliament is glad that it has well completed the Constitutional review process,” Donatille Mukabalisa, the Speaker of Parliament, told journalists on Monday.

Mukabalisa explained that the draft law amending the Constitution is handed to the government so that it can organise a referendum on the amendments.

“We are going to send the bill to the government and request it to prepare the referendum as it is required by the law because there is a provision in the reviewed Constitution whose approval requires a referendum,” the Speaker said, alluding to provisions about presidential term limits.

Mukama told The New Times that the draft law was last evening sent to government.

The latest voters’ register at the National Electoral Commission indicates that at least 6.3 million Rwandans will be eligible to vote.

 

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