2018 left Rwandans with a more inclusive parliament

Rwanda has the highest percentage of women in parliament worldwide. Emmanuel Kwizera

One of the hallmarks of post-Genocide Rwanda is inclusive politics. The year 2018 brought about more gains as far as political plurality is concerned, at least in the Chamber of Deputies where two new opposition parties won seats.

And this is significant in the country’s politics, according to the leader of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza, whose party won legislative seats in last year’s elections following several failed attempts at the ballot.

“Rwanda achieved a lot in 2018 and there is more reason to look forward to even better things ahead,” he told The New Times. He’s one of the two Green Party MPs.

His party won two seats in the September 2018 parliamentary elections after running a relatively successful campaign compared to his previous attempts to become President of the Republic.

With all political parties securing seats in the Lower House, relatively young people having joined parliament and women continuing to dominate the Chamber of Deputies, experts say that the legislature is more inclusive than it has ever been.

Habineza, currently the deputy chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Affairs in the Lower House, believes so.

“We think it’s possible for opposition parties to influence policy and laws. We will achieve that by working with other parliamentarians; we do give our different views with respect to other people’s views and they are accepted,” he said.

Newcomers in the House, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and PS-Imberakuri, for the first time since the country held its first democratic general elections in 2003, secured two seats each after each garnering the minimum threshold of 5 per cent of the votes.

For analysts like Dr Jean de la Croix Nkurayija, professor of political economy and development perspectives at the University of Rwanda, today’s parliament is more inclusive than ever before and that exclusivity is a result of the country’s ‘consensus democracy’.

He said that the latter takes into consideration society’s different opinions and includes minorities while also avoiding the exclusive rule of the winning majority.

MP Jean-Chrisostome Ngabitsinze, who secured a seat in the Lower house through his Social Democratic Party (PSD) for which he also serves as secretary-general, believes the country’s chosen model of democracy is gaining stability.

“We are making progress in building consensual democracy,” he told a senatorial Standing Committee on Political Affairs and Good Governance during hearings on the conduct of last year’s parliamentary elections.

Of the 80 MPs in the current lower chamber of parliament, out of the 53 who were fronted by political parties and were elected through universal suffrage, RPF-Inkotanyi won 40 seats after garnering 74 per cent of the votes from 6.6 million Rwandans who took part in the September direct vote, while PSD and Liberal Party (PL) obtained five seats and four seats, respectively.

Other MPs in the Lower House include 24 who are women representatives, two who are representatives of the youth, and one who represents people with disabilities.

Women constitute 61 per cent of all members.

The continued high female representation in the House is a source of pride for Eugenia Kayitesi, the Executive Director of the Kigali-based Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda).

“Having more women lawmakers is a win not only for women and girls but for the entire Rwandan society as we embrace diversity in leadership and seek to unleash the collective efforts of all Rwandans at the decision-making level,” she said in an interview last week.

More young people have also joined the House, with the youngest aged 23. This means that for the first time the country has a Member of Parliament who was born after the Genocide against the Tutsi.



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