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Rwanda: Chamber of Deputies Adopts Amendment to Election Law

(June 21, 2011) It was reported on June 13, 2011, that in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in September, the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies approved a bill to amend the current election law. The bill seeks to change the manner in which members of the Rwandan Senate are elected. (James Karuhanga, Law Governing Senators' Election to Be Revised, THE NEW TIMES (June 13, 2011).)

The most notable change introduced by the bill is to restrict senatorial polls to one round. Currently, elections for Senate seats are held in two rounds, unless one of the candidates scores an absolute majority (Law No. 27 of 2010 Relating to Elections, art. 121). In an explanatory note to the bill, its sponsor, Sheikh Musa Fazil Harelimana, Internal Security Minister, noted that this two-round system of electing Senators had been put in place to reflect the old administrative structure in which the country was divided into 12 electoral districts (11 provinces and the city of Kigaly), each represented by one seat. (Explanatory Note to the Draft Law Modifying and Complementing the Law No. 27 of 19/06/2010 Relating to Elections, Rwandan Parliament official website (last visited June 17, 2011).)

With the Senate election districts having been reduced to five and with each district represented by two or three seats, the current system has outlived its usefulness, according to Harelimana. (Id.) If the bill is enacted, the candidates who obtain the most votes based on the number of voters in a given electoral district would win the Senate seats. (Draft Law Modifying and Complementing the Law No. 27 of 19/06/2010 Relating to Elections, art. 2, Rwandan Parliament official website (last visited June 17, 2011).)

The Rwandan Senate consists of 26 members, of whom 12 are elected from the country's administrative provinces, 8 are appointed by the President, 4 are selected by a forum of political parties, and 2 are elected from among members of the country's institutions of higher learning. (Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, art. 82, Ministry of Justice of Rwanda website (last visited June 17, 2011). In addition, former heads of State automatically become members of the Senate. (Id.) Except for the former heads of State, all members of the Senate serve a non-renewable, eight-year term. (Id.)