Limitation of the presidential term of office
In the course of 2015, ie approx. Two years before the end of the second legislative period of President Paul Kagame, the highly exciting candidate question was discussed intensively. The reason for the debate was political stability problems, which are feared as a consequence of a change in power. The incumbent president has been the sole guarantor since the new beginning in 1994 the security and stability of the state that prevails today. However, according to the constitution, which – in the version at that time – limited the presidency to two mandates, he was no longer allowed to run for the presidential election in 2017. However, alternatives were hardly conceivable. As a result, a constitutional amendment was debated with the aim of allowing Paul Kagame to remain in office. This debate attracted increased international attention. A power scenario was feared in which a transition would become increasingly difficult and an abuse of power more and more likely. For the Rwandan regime, a constitutional amendment was associated with the fear of a loss of credibility vis-à-vis the international donor community.
Concrete steps to implement the intensely discussed constitutional reform were initiated in mid-2015. First, the ruling party (RPF) launched a large-scale mobilization campaign, which brought an overwhelming number of more than 3.7 million citizens behind it. The resulting collection of signatures was submitted in a petition to the President of Parliament. This started the constitutional reform process set in motion. In terms of content, the aim was to enable the incumbent head of state Paul Kagame to run for a third time in the presidential elections that took place in 2017. Corresponding articles in the constitution were subsequently changed by Parliament. A new draft constitution was passed unanimously by both chambers of parliament and finally submitted to the population in a referendum.
According to dentistrymyth, the referendum took place on December 18, 2015. As expected, the amended constitution was passed with an overwhelming majority of 98% approval. Surprisingly, the limitation of mandates is also in the new version of the constitution remained in effect for two periods, the legislative period was even shortened from seven to five years. In a new article (172), however, a transitional period is introduced, while only incumbent President Paul Kagame may deny a new seven-year term. Only then does the new regulation come into force. For President Kagame, depending on how the change is interpreted, there is a theoretical possibility of remaining in office until 2034.
The overall very complex procedure was considered a matter of form. The incumbent president and his party control all areas of the state, media, political education and voting processes. On the other hand, President Kagame enjoys very high recognition and popularity in large parts of the population due to his considerable success in restoring stability and economic reconstruction in the country after the genocide of 1994.
The decisions about President Kagame’s third mandate are viewed differently by the international community and, in particular, by the development partners. This plays an important role as it could affect the collaboration. Critical voices, e.g. from the USA, see behind the entire process of constitutional reform a systematically planned political staging. However, restrained to neutral reactions predominate, including from Germany.