With all political parties having secured seats in the Lower House of Parliament, relatively young people having joined the House and women continuing to dominate the Chamber of Deputies, experts say that the country’s Parliament is more inclusive today than ever.
Rwanda’s Parliament is bicameral, comprising the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, with new members of the latter having been elected early this month and sworn in on Wednesday.
For the first time since the country held post-Genocide democratic general elections in 2003, new parties secured seats in the House.
That fact, along with ordinary representation of different categories of Rwandans in the House, has constitutional law lecturer Tom Mulisa describing the Rwandan Parliament as fully inclusive.
“The recent parliamentary elections were inclusive. The preamble of the constitution and the guiding principles of the Rwandan constitution highlight the need for inclusivity.
“This is a young and dynamic parliament. The coming in of Green Party and PS-Imberakuri brings in more expectations from the public,” he said.
Mulisa, who is also the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Initiative for Human Rights and Development (GLIHD), teaches constitutional law at the University of Rwanda and comparative constitutional law at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“Inclusivity is about gender, opposition members, youth and the age factor, disabilities, and religion, among others. It’s all about having everyone on board not only opposition parties but the young, women, and people with disabilities, among others,” he said.
Mulisa said that inclusiveness of Rwanda’s Parliament is special to Rwanda because of the country’s constitution.
“In other countries the winner takes all. In Rwanda, the winning party in parliament cannot occupy 50 per cent of cabinet. Secondly, the president and speaker of chamber of deputies cannot be from the same party. It’s also a must that at least 30 per cent of all these organs are women,” he explained.
Of the 80 MPs in the current lower chamber of parliament, 53 were fronted by political parties and were elected through universal suffrage, 24 are women representatives, two are representatives of the youth, and one MP represents people with disabilities.
The ruling RPF-Inkotanyi, with its allied political parties, won 40 seats after garnering 74 per cent of the votes from 6.6 million Rwandans who took part in the September direct vote.
The Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) obtained five seats and four seats, respectively.
Some of the new parliamentarians at their inauguration on Wednesday. Courtesy.
Newcomers Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and PS-Imberakuri secured two seats each after they each secured the minimum threshold of 5 per cent of the votes.
Of the 80 MPs in the Chamber of Deputies today, 49 are women, translating to 61 per cent of female representation.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Prof Anastase Shyaka, described the September 2-4 elections as having delivered a very inclusive Parliament.
“We are celebrating very peaceful, fair, and the most inclusive parliamentary elections we have ever had in our country,” he told The New Times last week.
Dr Jean de la Croix Nkurayija, professor of political economy and development perspectives, who is also a former Dean of Political Sciences department at the University of Rwanda, agrees that Rwanda’s Parliament is inclusive.
He said that the parliament’s inclusivity is a result of the country’s ‘consensus democracy’ that takes into consideration the society’s opinion and includes minorities while also avoiding the exclusive rule of the winning majority.
While members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected to a five-year term and may be re-elected to additional terms, senators are elected or appointed for a five-year mandate that is renewable once but senators who are former Heads of the State are not subject to term limits.
While the Chamber of Deputies is made up of 80 deputies who are elected in both openly contested elections (53MPs) and the rest are those elected by special interest groups (youth, women, and people with disabilities), the Senate is made up of 26 Senators.
Senators who are elected are voted by specific electoral colleges in accordance with national administrative entities, the National Consultative Forum of Political Organisations, and both public and private institutions of higher learning and universities.
Those who are appointed (8 senators) are picked by the Head of State by giving particular consideration to the principles of national unity, the representation of historically marginalised groups, and any other national interests.
In addition to the senators elected or appointed, former Heads of State who successfully completed their term of office or resigned voluntarily may also become members of the Senate upon their request to the President of the Senate and approved by the Bureau of the Senate.