Rwanda Parliament has started a process of examining a special draft bill governing election of Rwanda members to the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) that will allow other political parties to vie for seats in the regional assembly.
The draft bill was presented this August 4, 2022 by the Minister of Local Government, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi, who said though urgently needed to pave way for the next EALA elections, the bill has to be discussed in the parliamentary committee before final approval.
The Minister explained that organic law was prepared on grounds to harmonize with the provisions of the Rwandan Constitution of 2003 revised in 2015, by putting into place an organic law relating to election procedures for Rwandan members of EALA instead of being an ordinary law.
Gatabazi said that the earlier bill was limited to allowing only parties in the unity government- the ruling party Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and other parties – Social Democratic Party- (PSD) and the Liberal Party (PL) to submit members to represent Rwanda at EALA.
There are 11 political organizations (parties) in Rwanda represented in parliament under the National Consultative Forum of Political Organizations (NFPO).
Other parties include: The Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), Social Party (PS) Imberakuri, Democratic Union of the Rwandese People (UDPR), Rwandan Socialist Party (PSR), Centrist Democratic Party (PDC), Party for Progress and Concord (PPC), The Prosperity and Solidarity Party (PSP),
“This time around all political parties will be obliged to submit their members to vie for the assembly seats and out of those, the parliament will select six members with the majority votes,” Gatabazi said.
This means that each political organization or political organizations of its coalition represented in the Parliament presents not more than three (3) candidates including at least one (1) woman.
The number of candidates for all political parties is the same and the Members from Political Organizations are elected at the same time from a list of all the candidates who have been presented by their Political Organizations
“This revised organic law shall allow all the political organizations represented in the Parliament to avail candidates from whom the Rwandan Members of the EALA shall be elected without necessarily proceeding to the revision of the Law whenever the election for the Members in the Parliament takes place as it was,” Gatabazi said.
Other Parties Speak Out
MP Frank Habineza, and President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DGPR), one of the newest parties that have contested in a presidential race, said they will not miss out on this opportunity.
“We are happy with the law. It will allow all political parties represented in Parliament to participate in these elections which hasn’t been the case, as it had been only RPF, PSD and PL which were in the previous law. We will indeed participate in these elections,” he said.
MP Mussa Fazil Harerimana, of The Ideal Democratic Party (PDI) and Deputy Speaker of Parliament welcomed the proposed bill as in line with the democratic rule in Rwanda.
“We are glad that this bill was tabled and in line with the democratic rule in Rwanda but we think the required number of six MPS is not equal to the parties in parliament –which is 11 that means not all parties will be represented at EALA,” he said.
MP Harerimana also stated that although all parties will be able to vie for EALA unlike the past, the draft bill should be flexible to let parties do this on free will, not as a legal obligation.
“This is an opportunity or opening for us (other political parties) to seek representation at EALA. We are very ready and we have potential candidates who can vie for the seats,” said MP Christine Mukabunani, the President of PS Imberakuri.
Also in the draft bill, three members will be selected to represent other groups of interest such as women and youth but the bill provides a requirement for at least one of them being a female.
That means that the existing National Councils shall give not more than three (3) candidates including at least one (1) woman. In the current law, each National Council was currently authorized to present only two (2).
All this election process (at National Councils) will be done by the National Electoral Commission as the institution in charge of supervising the election from which are drawn the candidates presented by National Councils because such provision was not in the current law.
As of the Fourth Assembly, the EALA has 62 members, of which each member state submits 9 elected members, and 8 ex-officio members. According to Article 50 of the East African Community Treaty, members are elected by their respective country’s national legislature.
Article 51(1) of the Treaty states that “Subject to this Article, an elected member of the Assembly shall hold office for five years and be eligible for re-election for a further term of five years.