Preps for EALA elections yet to begin as end of term draws closer

The Rwandan legislature is set to kick off search for representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), The New Times understands.
 EALA legislators, clockwise from top left, Dr Ndahiro, Dr Nyiramilimo, Nyirahabineza, and Hajabakiga, and Ndikuryayo (not pictured) will not be eligible for re-election. File.
EALA legislators, clockwise from top left, Dr Ndahiro, Dr Nyiramilimo, Nyirahabineza, and Hajabakiga, and Ndikuryayo (not pictured) will not be eligible for re-election. File.

The Rwandan legislature is set to kick off search for representatives to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), The New Times understands.

Each of the five partner states of the East African Community (EAC) is entitled to nine representatives to the regional parliament, and they are required by law to elect new EALA members within 90 days before the expiry date (in this case June 4) of the third Assembly.

 

The fourth Assembly – serving up to 2022 – will be sworn in on June 5.

 

In Kigali, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) will next month start selecting nominees from the National Youth Council and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities to later be elected by Parliament to represent Rwanda at EALA, the commission executive secretary, Charles Munyaneza, told The New Times last week.

 

Munyaneza said NEC will “begin consulting” the two groups next month to help select two nominees from each and that the process will be wrapped up in May.

“Representatives of Rwanda in EALA are elected in a special manner. NEC only handles election of two candidates each from the National Youth Council and the persons with disabilities and forwards their names to Parliament,” Munyaneza said.

Other nominees are handled directly by Parliament.

Five of Rwanda’s nine representatives to the Assembly are not eligible for re-election when the third Assembly’s term ends on June 4, according to the EALA Election Act 2011.

Dr James Ndahiro, Patricia Hajabakiga, Straton Ndikuryayo, Valerie Nyirahabineza, and Dr Odette Nyiramilimo, served in the second (2007 – 2012) and third (2012 - 2017) Assemblies.

They cannot stand for re-election because an elected member holds office for five years and is eligible for re-election for only one further term of five years.

Four others; Martin Ngoga, Dr Francois Kalinda, Pierre-Celestin Rwigema, and Oda Gasinzigwa – who only started serving during the third Assembly – can be re-elected if nominated.

Previously, Gasinzigwa, Ngoga and Hajabakiga were nominated by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) while Dr. Nyiramilimo was fronted by Liberal Party (PL) and Dr Kalinda Social Democratic Party (PSD).

Nyirahabineza, Dr. Ndahiro, Ndikuryayo, and Rwigema represent women, persons with disabilities, youth, and other interest groups, respectively.

The Assembly’s Election Act 2011 says national parliaments of each partner state make rules governing the procedure for election of members subject to this Act and Article 50 of the EAC Treaty.

Those elected represent political parties represented in the national parliament; shades of opinion; gender; and special interest groups in partner states.

Rwanda’s 2012 law relating to election procedures for Rwandan members of EALA stipulates that organs participating in these elections are: political organisations represented in Parliament; the national youth council; the national women council; and the national council of persons with disability.

The entire poll is organised and conducted by both chambers of the Parliament in a joint session.

Eligibility requirements

For one to be elected, they must be nationals of at least 21 years of age; be a person of integrity; hold at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent qualification or have held a senior managerial position; and not have been deprived of civil and political rights by a court of law, among others.

They must not have been irrevocably sentenced to a penalty equal to or higher than six months’ imprisonment which has not been forgiven by amnesty or rehabilitation; and not have been convicted of the crime of genocide or crimes against humanity; and not suffer from mental illness.

A candidate to EALA cannot be a Member of Parliament, Cabinet member or member of staff of the EAC at the time of elections. However, the law states that a person in such organs may be candidate after having beforehand temporary resigned from their duties. If such a person loses elections, they can be reinstated in their functions unconditionally.

The number of candidates submitted by each category of political organisations and categories represented in the Chamber of Deputies is also established by law.

The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) and other political organisations in the coalition it leads can submit eight candidates.

The Liberal Party (PL), Social Democratic Party (PSD), national women council, national youth council, and national council of persons with disabilities can submit two each.

Eventually, four from the RPF and political organisations from its coalition; and one from each of all the other five categories will be elected.

Dr Nyiramilimo, who doubles as PL Secretary General, said: “We are waiting for the best time to organise the primaries in PL. Aspiring candidates must be preparing their files.”

“We will nominate two members who will then go for the final election in Parliament so as to get one.”

The polling day is fixed by the joint Bureau of both chambers of Parliament. To be successful, a candidate must obtain at least one third of all votes cast.

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